Subject: Info: Manatee epidemic ebbs (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Thu, 9 May 1996 15:36:37 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 9 May 96 00:24:00 UTC 0000
From: r.mallon1@genie.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Manatee epidemic ebbs

Manatee epidemic ebbs

   ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 7 (UPI) -- The mysterious epidemic that is
killing endangered manatees off Florida's southwest coast appears to
have abated, Florida environmental officials said Tuesday.
   "It's been 10 days since we picked up a carcass in the southwest
area," said Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Edie
Ousley. "There has been an obvious slowdown in the manatee die-off."
   So far this year, 261 dead manatees have been recovered, 157 of them
in the area off the southwestern coast. The previous mortality record
was 206 for the entire year of 1990.
   Researchers around the world have joined the investigation into
what's killing the animals.
   A prime suspect is red tide, an algae bloom that infests semi-
tropical waters.
   While researchers have no conclusive proof that red tide is
responsible, manatee deaths have abated along with its recession.
   "We haven't ruled anything out at this point, and...there's no
direct evidence linkingred tide to the manatee mortality," said Allen
Huff, research administrator at the Florida Marine Research Institute.
   Researchers said the grass-eating mammals died quickly from lesions
that formed in their lungs, and affected mostly adult animals.
   Huff said despite the epidemic's toll, there was encouraging evidence
the population was still strong. The last survey in February counted 2,
639 manatees in all of Florida's waters, but an aerial count Monday
showed 600 animals in the so-called "event zone" in southwestern
waters.
   Another survey will be done in about 10 days, he said.
   As many as 150 people have been involved in retrieving dead manatees
and examining them since the crisis began in early March, ranging from
state, federal and private workers to researchers at Erasmus University
of the Netherlands.