Sometime this weekend, the record for manatee deaths caused by Red Tide will be broken.
A Red Tide bloom has been killing 10 or more manatees a day and the deadly algae bloom shows no sign of letting up any time soon, say state biologists.
"This is probably going to be the worst die-off in history," said Martine DeWit, a veterinarian who oversees the state's marine mammal pathology laboratory.
The record for manatees killed by Red Tide was set in 1996, with 151 killed by a toxin in the algae bloom. As of Friday, the number killed this year had hit 149, DeWit said, which means the record is likely to fall by today.
Eleven manatees have been rescued, alive but ailing, and taken to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for treatment. The treatment requires having zookeepers stand in the manatees' water tank and hold the manatee's head up out of the water so it can breathe.
I have a manatee question. Yes, I know I could google it.)
When I was in Florida I ran into a woman in some office where I was waiting who went into an absolute diatribe against the poor manatees. She claimed they weren't native, that it was unreasonable to expect boats to avoid them, that save-the-manatee people were all crazy, etc. etc. Really, it was over the top and loony, but did leave me wondering if in fact the manatees were imported into Florida.
Manatees are well represented in Florida’s fossil record. Their remains date back to prehistoric times and they are one of the more common vertebrate fossils known from ancient marine deposits. Manatee remains are also found in Native American rubbish heaps in Florida, sites that pre-date the arrival of the early Spaniards. The early colonists described how these natives hunted the manatee and were quick to appreciate the intrinsic value of the species.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, papal decrees and British law sought to dictate who, when, and where these animals could be killed. In 1893, the state of Florida passed legislation that prohibited killing manatees.
Lots of other things get killed by algae bloom also, but of course in that area manatees are the most important since they are an endangered species in the state. I wonder if any research has been done on how to prevent this sort of thing before it happens. There are so many ridiculous research projects that get funded, I just hope that every now and they fund one that is worthwhile even if it will not make the backers rich.
Thank you, Htmb! Not only did you answer my question, but you found a source that points out that the loony woman wasn't the only one with the erroneous belief that manatees are non-native.
I remember reading that when water hyancinth (a true non-native) began proliferating alarmingly in the wild manatees were introduced to control them -- another possible source of the "exotic manatee" myth.
However, the stories about sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids are almost enough proof that the manatee is native to warm New World waters.
I read up a little bit on red tide, as I had lots of negative experiences related to the issue while I was growing up. I was surprised to learn that red tide occurs off every coastal (ocean) region worldwide. Red tide can move in close to shore and dead fish begin piling up on the beaches soon after. The smell of the rotting fish, as well as the odor of red tide can make it very hard to breathe and cause respiratory difficulties for those with weakened systems.