An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Red tide manatee death rate on track to break records

By Josh Rojas

ST. PETERSBURG – So far this year, nearly 100 manatees are suspected of dying from red tide poisoning in Southwest Florida, which puts the endangered species mortality rate on track to break a record, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"The number is really high. We’re already almost at our second highest in historical records," said FWC veterinarian Martine de Wit. "Records may be broken but you never know what happens and it depends on a lot of factors."

The worst outbreak of red tide is suspected of killing 151 manatees in 1996, the first year records were kept. The second worst year was in 2003, when 100 manatees died.

The red tide bloom that's suspected of killing 96 manatees since Jan. 1 is primarily located in the waters off Lee County and Collier County.

"The bloom boundaries go a little more north and south," de Wit said. "Manatees are exposed to red tide by eating sea grass that has the toxin on it. Once they eat it, once it’s in their system, they die from a toxic shock."