Manatees dying from red tide – 03/26/2005

  • October 2, 2013 at 2:12 am #652

    Posted on Sat, Mar. 26, 2005

    Herald Staff Writer

    MANATEE – Three weeks after the first dead manatee was found, the
    number of endangered marine mammals believed killed by a lingering
    red tide in southwest Florida has reached 43.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday collected the 42nd
    and 43rd dead manatees, both from the Caloosahatchee River.

    “It is not over, from what we are seeing,” said Allison Bozarth of
    the commission. “We can’t predict when it is going to stop.”

    Red tide is a naturally occurring bloom of algae in the Gulf that can
    be toxic to fish and marine mammals. Red tide also can cause
    respiratory irritation in people, affecting the quality of life for
    residents and curbing tourism.

    Spanish records report red tides in the Gulf as far back as the
    1500s, but scientists today are debating whether nutrient runoff from
    development, farming and phosphate mining is making red tides last
    longer and occur more frequently.

    This year marks the fourth time in a decade that red tide has led to
    mass manatee deaths. In 1996, according to state data, 149 manatees
    died from red tide. The toll was 34 in 2002 and 96 in 2003.

    Scientists fear the succession of red tide deaths could overstress an
    already struggling species.

    The state weekly report released Friday shows red tide is offshore
    between Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. No positive counts were found
    south of Sarasota Bay.

    Offshore samples though were not received this week, and dead fish
    were reported offshore of Fort Myers. Dead fish and two dead pelicans
    were also reported in lower Tampa Bay, the report said.

    Mote Marine Laboratory staff scientist Michael Henry said the red
    tide appears to have become more patchy and lower in concentrations,
    though he added that change does not necessarily mean the red tide is

    “I have been doing this for 18 years and I couldn’t tell you if it
    was going away or going to get stronger again,” Henry said. “But this
    is definitely a move in the right direction.”

    People generally experience red tide effects if concentrations are
    elevated offshore and the wind is blowing onshore, like it did
    Thursday in some parts of Anna Maria Island.

    But overall since the red tide moved into the region in January, it
    has not been a rough year for red tide for beachgoers, said Bradenton
    Beach Mayor John Chappie.

    “All in all it hasn’t been too bad. We have had worse (years),”
    Chappie said. “It just seems every once in a while when the wind is
    blowing you get it.”

    Larry White, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and
    Visitor’s Bureau, said he has not received an inordinate number of
    complaints of respiratory problems this year.

    “As far as tourism, if there is any impact, it has been negligible,”
    White said.

    Scott Radway, environmental reporter, can be reached at 708-7919 or
    at sradway@….

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