Web Zap*Germs Archive

January 06, 2006

Red Tide Algae Blooms Kill Florida Manatees

I blogged in August '05 about the increase in dangerous red-tide algae occurences that were making Florida beach tourists sick with coughs and other respiratory problems. This morning I was surprised, while reading an article on Florida manatee deaths, to learn that the red tides actually killed a number of "sea cows" in 2005.

The Florida government reported a 30% increase in manatee deaths during 2005, bringing the total to 366 (there are about 3,200 manatees living in Florida rivers and lakes). While motorboats continued to be the biggest hazard to the slow-moving water mammals, the red tides killed some as well:
Some experts attribute the spike [in manatee deaths] to the toxic effects of red tide, an aquatic phenomenon caused by an unpredictable algae bloom that can sicken and kill sea life when it is ingested. [2005] was an unusually active year for red tide in the Gulf. It was most the active year since 1996, when a red tide bloom brought the statewide death toll to more than 400.

"We had a very severe year for red tide," said Cynthia Heil, a senior research scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission who monitors red tide statewide. "When red tides occurs in March, the manatees are especially threatened. [In 2005] the bloom started as early as January."
Visit Red Tide Alert for more info on the serious threat that red tide poses to sea animals and to humans in Florida and the Gulf states. According to the site, the Florida state government and tourism industry is trying to ignore the threat, and not informing the public about the very real health danger.


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