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Water-Related News

Red tide, boat strikes cause of most manatee deaths in 2017

A prolonged red tide season that bled over from 2016 played a large role in deaths of the Florida manatee this year.

Red tide’s presence was visible — visually and nasally — from September 2016 through February in Manatee County, with other areas along Southwest Florida also being exposed.

Also known as the accumulation of the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, red tide used to be a one-off reason for manatee mortality, said Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee’s director of science and conservation.

In 2016, a total of 520 manatees were reported dead statewide, with various causes such as boat strikes, cold stress syndrome or natural. This year, preliminary counts through Dec. 15 put the count at 513. Many of them occurred in Brevard or Lee counties, as a lot of manatees congregate in those waters. More often than not, the cause of death goes undetermined.