What is Red Tide?
Red Tide is the common name for the explosion of algae bloom; a large concentration of aquatic microorganisms. This large gathering of phytoplankton is what gives the water its red appearance. The red tide phenomenon is beautiful to the naked eye but the devastation that lies in its wake is a reality for some of our world’s gentlest creatures.
What does the Red Tide mean for the Manatees?
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the manatee population is down 10%, 426 manatees have died as a result of Red Tide. The toxins from the algae settle onto the seagrass, which is then eaten by the manatee. Over two years the blooms have devastated roughly 31,000 acres of seagrass in one lagoon alone. With their seagrass being poisoned and wiped out, the manatee are being forced to turn to a less healthy source of nutrition. If the manatee consumes the seagrass, the toxins in the algae act as neurotoxins inducing seizures; once the spasms begin it is only a matter of time before the manatee will drown. Without the interjection of humans, the death toll would certainly be more severe. As the tide continues to dissipate, more deaths are being reported and expected to continue for a while.
What can we do?
Throughout this epidemic there have been several manatees found alive. With hard work and dedication through organizations like the Save the Manatee Club, manatees that have been found alive are rescued and transported to a critical care facility. With so many manatees in need of help, much of the critical care facilities are at full capacity. Donations to the Save the Manatee Club would help volunteers provide a safe habitat for the manatees to heal and become healthy until their own habitat is safe for them to return to. If you feel like helping in other ways, spread the word, knowledge is power.
Red tide image- serc.carleton.edu. Manatee image- http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=7990293&searchId=f3ee86ee1744f422f0ccad878910f7c4&npos=157