Sad recordManatees were already endangered in Florida, but they've apparently just become even more so because of a toxic red algae bloom off the western coast of the state. The New York Times reports: "The tide has killed 241 of Florida’s roughly 5,000 manatees, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and the toll appears certain to rise. The number of deaths from the tide far exceeds the previous annual record of 151."
The bloom dissipated a few weeks ago, but its effects will still be felt for a while as toxins from the red algae cling to sea grass, which manatees eat in great quantities (100lbs/day!).
The state’s annual red tide affects a wide range of aquatic animals and can cause problems in people. The algae contain a nerve poison known as brevetoxin that is not only found underwater but that is also blown through the air when waves break open the algae’s outer casing.
Manatees, birds, dolphins and other animals can be killed by consuming the poison, either by accidentally eating the algae or by ingesting small organisms clinging to sea grass that have soaked up the poison while filtering seawater. (source)
Experts say that agricultural phosphorus runoffs could have contributed to the severity of the bloom this year, another reason why we need to push for sustainable agriculture that minimizes these runoffs.