More than 200 Florida manatees have died in the past two months from a deadly outbreak of toxic red tide. The record-breaking death toll among the gentle giant sea cows has the environmental community worried, as more dead manatees wash up on Florida shores.
The red tide algae bloom that is killing the manatees covers the entire Gulf Coast from the Panhandle to South Florida.
According to a report from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Mother Jones: " In contrast to the many red tide species that are fueled by nutrient pollution associated with urban or agricultural runoff, there is no direct link between nutrient pollution and the frequency or severity of red tides caused by K. brevis.
Florida red tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from manmade nutrient sources. Red tides occurred in Florida long before human settlement, and severe red tides were observed in the mid-1900s before the state's coastlines were heavily developed.
However, once red tides are transported inshore, they are capable of using manmade nutrients for their growth."
Manatees ingest the toxic pollution by feeding on contaminated plants and suffer a horrible death. The poison causes paralysis and the manatees die from drowning.
Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa has managed to rescue about a dozen of the sickened manatees, but there are many more infected manatees that will not be so lucky.
Gov. Rick Scott may be responsible for the dead manatees, as well as the mysterious deaths of more than 100 Brown Pelicans on Florida’s east coast during the same period of time.
Since taking office in 2010, Florida Governor Rick Scott has rolled back water pollution laws. Deadly toxins once banned are now flowing into Florida’s waterways and making their way into the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the fragile wildlife breeding grounds of the Florida Everglades.
The drinking water supply of more than 17 million people is also part of the aquifer being polluted by Gov. Scott’s anti-Clean Water Act policy. In 2011, Scott claimed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean water regulations are not needed in Florida, calling the rules “meddling” by the federal government.
Corporate polluters who profit from not having to pay for equipment that filters water before it’s dumped into the environment, appear to be the primary beneficiaries of Scott’s support for repealing regulations on water pollution.
According to Save the Manatee.org, there are only about 4,800 manatees left in Florida waters.
The endangered species has been protected by the federal government since 1972. Most of their unnatural deaths are caused by humans who cut them up when they run over them with boats in shallow waters. Now they are dying from red tide caused by pollution.
It is difficult to image Florida without the gentle manatees that have inhabited its waters for centuries, but as with so many other creatures that once thrived, humans are finding more ways to kill them than to save them.
Sources and more info:
Video NBC News: Manatees dying in record numbers