Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Scientists puzzled by manatee deaths on Florida's east coast

Even as a Red Tide algae bloom is wiping out a record number of manatees in southwest Florida, a mysterious ailment is killing dozens more manatees on the state's east coast. So far, state biologists have been unable to pinpoint the cause.

Pat Rose, a former government manatee biologist who is now executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, said he could not recall another time when manatees were being killed in such numbers on both coasts at the same time.

Since last July, 55 manatees showing similar symptoms have died in the Indian River Lagoon area — 25 in just the past month, according to Kevin Baxter, a spokesman for the state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

There is no Red Tide bloom on the east coast, and the winter has not been cold enough to kill manatees. So far, Baxter said, no sick manatees have been rescued, availing biologists with a live specimen to study for clues.

They suspect the manatee deaths may be connected to back-to-back blooms of a harmful algae, one that has stained the Indian River Lagoon a chocolate brown. Over the past two years the blooms wiped out some 31,000 acres of sea grass in the 156-mile-long lagoon that stretches along the state's Atlantic Coast. Manatees eat sea grass, but with the sea grass gone, they may have turned to less healthful sources of nutrition.

"A big part of it is that there's just not that much left for them to feed on," Rose said. "The system is way out of balance."

The manatees that have turned up dead on the east coast all appeared to have gone into shock and drowned after they "ingested large amounts of macroalgae," Baxter said. "Our researchers are thinking the deaths are related to some kind of dietary change."

This is not the only mystery that state biologists are trying to solve. Last week they announced that, since the start of 2013, more than 100 brown pelicans have been found dead in that same area of Brevard County. The pelicans were emaciated and full of parasites. So far biologists don't know what killed them or if there could be any connection with the dead manatees.

Rose blamed the Indian River Lagoon's toxic algae blooms on nutrient pollution from storm runoff. The runoff carries into the waterways excess fertilizer, sewage and animal waste that fuels the growth of some algae.

Although scientists suspect something similar fuels Red Tide blooms too, they lack the evidence to prove it. Red Tide, an algae bloom that turns the water the color of rust and releases toxins that can prove fatal for fish, dolphins and manatees, has killed more than 180 manatees so far this year in Lee County. That breaks the 1996 record of 151.

State biologists estimate the total Florida manatee population to be between 4,000 and 5,000. Manatees have been on the federal endangered species list since the list was created in 1967. They have been protected by state law since 1893.

Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputiesí actions justified

In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputiesí actions justified

TAMPA ó Michael Bratt told a story.He said that Hernando County sheriffís deputies attacked him in his home early one morning eight years ago, beat him severely on his front lawn, and continued the assault as they took him to a hospital.But another s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA ó Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snivelyís Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Raccoon bites bicyclist, now the Health Department is looking for the victim

TAMPA ó A bicyclist in the Palm River area was bitten by a raccoon Friday morning, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said.Now the department is concerned the animal had rabies and is searching for the bicyclist."While it is impo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Meet your unwelcome Memorial Day guest: Subtropical Storm Alberto

Meet your unwelcome Memorial Day guest: Subtropical Storm Alberto

It has a name.Subtropical Storm Alberto is crawling into the Gulf of Mexico, an unwelcome guest arriving a week before the official start of hurricane season.The system, which became the first named storm of the year Friday, could bring five inches o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

TAMPA — Travelers killing time at Tampa International Airport’s Gasparilla Bar got an unexpected show Friday when a dog gave birth to eight puppies near Gate F81. The 2-year-old golden retriever, Eleanor Rigby, owner Diane Van Atter, and...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Before we even get going, let me be clear about something.This is not a column making an argument about whether or not NFL players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem.That topic has been debated repeatedly, loudly and passio...
Updated: 4 hours ago