Home > Environment > Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida.

Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida.

By Nadia Drake 22nd March 2013.    Find Full Article Here:-

Rescuers attend to a manatee affected by red tide near Fort Myers, Florida.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Large numbers of manatees are dying on both coasts of Florida.

In the southwest, a persistent red tide in the Gulf of Mexico has killed nearly 200 manatees this year. These tides are algal blooms, and occur when microorganisms called dinoflagellates proliferate, staining oceans and releasing toxins into the water and air. Harmful to organisms including fish, manatees and humans, the toxins attack the nervous system, causing short-term memory loss, paralysis, seizures and ultimately death.

In the east, near Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean, manatees are also dying. But there the cause is unknown.

“There are indications of the animals being otherwise completely healthy — but having died of shock and drowning,” said marine mammal biologist Ann Spellman, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency tasked with the investigation.

In July 2012, manatees started turning up dead in the Indian River Lagoon; now, there are 80 dead animals, 50 of them since the beginning of February.

“They’re all dying from a cause that we suspect is a common one — common to those manatees — but right now, is still unknown,” said Kevin Baxter, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Alligators aren’t a threat to manatees, but microorganisms and boat propellers are.
Photo: Patrick M. Rose/Save the Manatee Club

The gentle, blimp-shaped animals, with their bristled snouts and large, fanlike tails, have been on the federal endangered species list since 1967 (.pdf). Scientists estimate that roughly half the world’s West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) live in the shallow waters in and around Florida, where aside from microorganisms and mystery killers, the thousand-pound animals are threatened by watercraft, fishing gear and the loss of their warm-water habitats.

Now, the simultaneous mass-mortality events are threatening the state’s manatee population.

“This is very unusual and is unprecedented in magnitude,” said Patrick Rose, a former government biologist and current director of Save the Manatee Club. Rose has studied and worked with manatees since the late 1960s. “This is fast approaching the all-time record catastrophic mortality from cold shock and cold stress experienced in 2010,” he said. During that winter, more than 250 manatees died. “The difference here is that by this time, the cold stress issues were abating with the arrival of spring — and we don’t know when either of these unusual mortality events will extinguish.”

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