The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is calling on Florida residents to be on the lookout for manatees who may be incapacitated by a particularly nasty algal bloom that’s propogating through the state's southwest coast.
This “red tide” bloom event has already claimed 174 manatees so far this year — the highest number of algal bloom-related deaths ever recorded in a single calendar year.
The problem is Karenia brevis, an algal microorganism that has appeared in coastal areas off Florida and Texas. Manatees don’t fare well when they come into contact with this noxious algae; it naturally produces a host of potent neurotoxins called brevetoxins, which cause gastrointestinal and neurological problems in aquatic animals and birds.
Signs that a manatee has come into contact with the red tide include a lack of coordination and stability in the water, muscle twitches, seizures, and difficulty lifting its head to breathe.
Since the calendar year began, the FWS, along with the help of local Florida residents, has rescued 12 manatees suffering from the effects of the red tide. The public is being asked to contact the FWS if they see a manatee in distress.
Manatees are currently listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Images: cdph.ca.gov, eosnap.com.