Photo Bonde USGS ©
Eight hundred and thirty Florida manatees— from a total population of only 5,000— have died in 2013. This potentially catastrophic mortality has been caused by two main events— a toxic red tide in SW Florida and a yet unknown agent in the Indian River Lagoon along the central Florida Atlantic coast.
The red algal bloom known as red tide appears each year off Florida’s west coast. It affects a wide range of aquatic life from manatees to fish and can also cause respiratory problems in people. Perhaps because of the mild winter, this year’s red tide has been especially severe and has lasted for an unusually long time.
The manatee deaths in the Indian River region are a mystery— but hundreds of pelicans and dozens of dolphins also died in the same area. Experts believe the biology of the estuary waters is changing; the water is now overloaded with nitrogen, which fuels massive algal blooms that cover and kill the vital sea grasses. The source of the nitrogen is hotly debated, and the reason for the manatee deaths remains unknown.
Florida Manatees are federally listed as endangered.
top of page | Home