“Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida” — Deaths of pelicans, turtles, dolphins also increasing — “Scientists fear this is the beginning of a devastating ecosystem collapse”

Published: March 29th, 2013 at 10:56 am ET
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Wired: Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida [...] 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. [...] 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. [...]

Tampa Bay Times: Even as a Red Tide algae bloom is wiping out a record number of manatees in southwest Florida, a mysterious ailment is killing dozens more manatees on the state’s east coast. So far, state biologists have been unable to pinpoint the cause. [...] There is no Red Tide bloom on the east coast, and the winter has not been cold enough to kill manatees. [...] Last week they announced that, since the start of 2013, more than 100 brown pelicans have been found dead in that same area of Brevard County. [...] Officials said one of the manatees is a calf suffering from cold stress and had cold-water lesions all over its body. [...]

Environmental Protection: At the [156-mile long] Indian River Lagoon in Florida, several manatees and pelicans have been found dead, most likely due to the algae blooms that are quickly invading the area. With the deaths of these animals, scientists fear this is the beginning of a devastating ecosystem collapse. [...] Investigators believe that manatees are eating gracilaria, a red-colored alga, because of the seagrass shortage and because the dead manatees’ stomachs are full of it. Gracilaria isn’t known to be toxic, but scientists are trying to find whether some type of toxin is at work. [...] “Because of what’s going on with manatees, we’re on alert,” Megan Stolen, a scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, said, according to Spear’s article, which said the institute documented five dolphin deaths in February, up from the month’s average of 2.3 deaths. [...]

WBBH: [...] Red tide is also now the suspected cause of death of sea turtles in Southwest Florida. So far this year, 13 dead sea turtles have been reported dead. That’s compared to just 2 sea turtle deaths at this time last year. [...] Barnacles covered her shell and she seemed underweight; but researchers we spoke with say this many sea turtles shouldn’t be dying. “When I get that call, I just say, ‘Oh no not another one.’ [...] said Eve Haverfield, with Turtle Time Inc. [...]

Sun-Sentinel: [...] In just the first three months of this year, 409 manatees died in Florida waters, compared with 115 in the same period last year. The total number of deaths last year in Florida was 392. [...]

Published: March 29th, 2013 at 10:56 am ET
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