VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — As red tide continues to impact beaches along Florida’s gulf coast, authorities have been rescuing animals caught up in the harmful algal blooms.
Over the past weekend, Marine Units with the Venice Police Department Marine Unit, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, the Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office all assisted in the successful rescue of a juvenile manatee.
The 700-pound manatee was in distress because of red tide, according to Venice police. Marine officers and biologists had to get in the water and help hold the young manatee’s head above water so it could breathe until additional personnel arrived.
Red tide, a toxic algae bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, is worsened by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warns people to not swim in or around red tide waters because of the possibility of skin irritation, rashes and burning and sore eyes. People with asthma or lung disease should avoid beaches affected by the toxic algae.
Police said a hammock stretcher had to be used in order to get the manatee into a truck. During the rescue mission, residents gave officials access to their property to help save the mammal.
The manatee was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation.
“If you see any sea life that appears to be in distress, please call your local marine authorities,” VPD wrote on Facebook.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday reported that it had found red tide in 157 samples along Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the strongest concentrations along Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.