Toxin Impacts Sea Life

Despite the relatively low concentration of red tide, some sea creatures are still being taken to rehabilitation clinics in Collier and Lee counties.

Since December, Sanibel’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, has treated a variety of seabirds including 30 cormorants, 12 pelicans and a herring gull that was given a shake with a special nutrient supplement to help the bird clear toxins from its bloodstream. A pelican has been given physical therapy because he can hardly stand.  Red tide affected the bird’s nervous system making it lethargic, weak and disoriented. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples has also treated a number of birds in the past month or so.

The directors of both these rehab facilities believe it is the toxins in the food not the water that is making the birds sick. They say the birds are eating fish and other food sources that were already infected with the red tide organism.

Fortunately, most birds will recover and be released, but sea turtles are often not so lucky.  Tara Wentz, with Ding Darling, noted that “unlike birds that can fly away to areas not impacted by red tide, turtles are stuck in the water column where they are.” Of the ten turtles that washed ashore in Lee County, only one survived.

This week, The News-Press reported that two kayakers found an adult manatee belly up in Bonita Springs waters. The Lee County Sheriff’s office helped tow the manatee to a boat ramp where FWC biologists were able to rescue it.  It is believed that the mammal was suffering from red tide.

Kevin Baxter, with FWC, said 23 manatee carcasses, all victims of confirmed or suspected red tide, have been recovered since red tide began in Southwest Florida the beginning of November through the end of the year.

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