Red tide, algae kill Florida wildlife

The red tide algae is deadly to fish and cause irritation in humans

An unusual number of dead animals have been washing up on Florida's shores this summer.

The state wildlife agency says red tide, a type of algae, has been a naturally occuring phenomenon along Florida's Gulf Coast since at least the 1840s and that blooms occur almost every year in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scott directed the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to "mobilize all available resources" to address impacts in Southwest Florida.

The city is issuing a daily "fish kill clean-up" report because of the "unprecedented volume of dead sea life now washing up". "We're even seeing large loggerhead sea turtles being effected, and that's because this red tide has lasted into the nesting season".

Blue-green algae blooms have been plaguing the area for months, choking the waterways and bring foul smells and dead wildlife along the Caloosahatchee River.

"Many people will tell you that this is the worst they have ever seen", Jacylin Bevis, a reporter with the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida, told NBC News.

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Also this week, a manatee in distress from exposure to red tide in southwest Florida was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation.

But the bloom is not only unsafe to marine animals.

While biologists are still working to determine the cause of death, if the algae bloom did play a role, it would be the first known incident in which a whale shark has been killed by a bloom.

Usually, cold spells break up or kill off some of the algae, but not this time.

The excess amount of algae absorbs much of the oxygen in the water, killing off marine life beneath the surface. "That's due, in part, to having red tide and a very cold winter", said Mezich.

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