Recent manatee deaths in Tampa Bay linked to red tide: FWC

Toxic algae are just another threat to the manatee. In 2021, more manatees died than in the past six years.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – This year has been devastating for manatees, with more marine animals dead so far this year than in any of the past six years.

Now it looks like the red tide could be another threat to the beloved sea cow.

According to data from the FWC, the red tide is suspected to be the cause of the deaths of nine manatees discovered in recent weeks in the Tampa Bay area.

From June 17 to July 15, the latest data available, nine manatees were found dead in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and the FWC lists red tide as the suspected cause of death.

The manatees have been found dead in Boca Ciega Bay, Clearwater Harbor and Tampa Bay. Most of the manatees’ bodies were too decomposed to positively identify what killed the animals, the report said.

So far this year, the red tide is thought to be responsible for the death of 26 manatees in Florida. However, only nine deaths have been positively attributed to the red tide, according to FWC. None of these have been to the Tampa Bay area yet.

As of July 16, 866 manatees have been reported dead in Florida. This number is higher than the combined totals for 2020 and 2019 and higher than each of the past six years.

RELATED: Possible Sick Manatee Surge Prompts Clearwater Marine Aquarium to Make Room

Pinellas County said Thursday that crews cleaned up more than 1,400 tons of dead marine life.

On Friday, the FWC said that compared to the previous week, water samples from the Tampa Bay area appear better for levels of toxic algal blooms. Still, high concentrations of red tide were found in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Pasco counties. Average red tide levels were found in Hillsborough County.

Red tide-related fish kills are still being reported in Pinellas, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

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