Manatee rescued near Holmes Beach had watercraft wound, signs of red tide exposure

Manatee rescued from Holmes Beach (FWC photo)

As red tide continues to sit off the Gulf coast, reported three manatees were rescued within a couple of days after they showed signs of exposure to the harmful organism. One sea cow was found near Holmes Beach

The Florida manatee primarily consumes aquatic vegetation, and if a red tide bloom has been around for a while, it can lead to poisoning.

"Epiphytes, such as small crustaceans and barnacles, grow on seagrass blades and feed by filtering out particles from the surrounding waters," according to the University of Florida. "During persistent red tide blooms, epiphytes remove large amounts of red tide cells from the water and concentrate the toxin-producing algae in their gut. These toxins, while not harmful to the epiphytes, can poison manatees when they consume the seagrass."

Over the weekend, Florida Fish and Wildlife reported that the Holmes Beach manatee was transported to ZooTampa by Mote Marine staff. They also noted the manatee had a watercraft wound across its tail

The second was near St. James City in southwest Florida. FWC officials said the sea cow was both lethargic and unresponsive. It was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehab.

Just two days before, another manatee was spotted "surfacing vertically in the water." FWC didn't specify where it was located, but it was also taken to SeaWorld.

Currently, the red tide organism, Karenia breves, has been detected from Pinellas to Lee counties. FWC releases red tide reports On March 1, FWC provided the following red tide update:

  • Pinellas County: Low to medium concentrations of K. brevis
  • Hillsborough County: High concentrations in and offshore
  • Manatee County: very low to medium concentrations in and offshore
  • Sarasota County: High concentrations
  • Charlotte County: Very low to high concentrations in and offshore
  • Lee County: Background (which can be up to 1,000 K. brevis cells per liter) to high concentrations in and offshore

Between September 2017 and October 2018, nearly 200 manatees were killed along parts of the Gulf coast due to a more than year-long red tide bloom, reports UF.