Sea World is turning into a homeless shelter for sea cows during Florida’s deadly red tide

Science
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The normally clear waves on Florida’s Gulf coast are a stinky, muddy, brown-red mess this year.

A persistent red tide that came in October continues to plague the waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, killing off sea creatures big and small. It’s even dangerous for people to breathe the contaminated air.

The tide is caused by toxic levels of a sea algae called karenia brevis. Massive blooms of the algae, which occurs naturally at low levels in the ocean, have washed ashore up and down the coast of southwestern Florida. The blooms feed on nutrients like fertilizers that wash into coastal seawater, and thrive in water that is a little bit warm, but not too hot.

The dangerous algae harbors a deadly brevetoxin, which is why red tides are animal killers.

Scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory say this is the worst red tide they’ve seen in over a decade. Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a state of emergency for seven Gulf coast counties.

In addition to fish that suffocate due to the brevetoxin, manatees suffer when they nibble on seagrass that’s been contaminated with the chemical. This red tide has already killed an estimated 92 of them since January, according to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Last-ditch efforts are underway in Florida to save manatees; nearly a dozen have been taken in for first aid at Sea World in Orlando. When it comes to rescuing and treating sick manatees, earlier is better, according to Sea World — if sick manatees are found in the first 24 hours of intoxication, they have a pretty good chance of making a full recovery. Here’s what the situation looks like:

SEE ALSO: Toxic ‘red tide’ algae blooms are killing fish, turtles, and manatees in Florida — here’s what it looks like and why it’s happening

More than 6,300 manatees call Florida home — an impressive comeback since 1991, when there were just around 1,200 of them left. But 540 manatees have been killed already this year, and more than 17% of those deaths have been attributed to the red tide.

The dead manatee count so far this year already tops the total number reported in 2017.

Manatees are plant eaters; depending on their size, they munch 32-108 lbs of vegetation per day.

Source: Sea World

When red tide rolls in, they essentially poison themselves by snacking on seaweed contaminated with the algae.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Science

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