Red tide cited after manatees, thousands of fish found dead in Florida

Sanibel Island which is said to appear apocalyptic thanks to the red tide

The sparkling white sand of Florida's southwestern beaches aren't dotted with sunbathers this week.

"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.

Red tide is the name given to the blooms of a species of microorganisms that have a distinct red colour.

Red tide is a "naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs almost every year". The state's governor has declared a state of emergency.

"With this year's red tide being more substantial than previous years, we must do everything we can to help minimize its harm to our water and wildlife".

Dead sea life continues to wash ashore on beaches in the area, according to the News-Press, which is documenting the deaths in stories and a photo gallery on its website.

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According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, almost 300 sea turtles have died since a red tide algae bloom started late previous year between Sarasota and Collier counties.

Dozens of sea turtles are also turning up dead. The algae can also cause respiratory problems in humans.

The Miami Herald reported the blue-green algae outbreak had grabbed national attention.

But the bloom is not only risky to marine animals. The harmful effects are caused by toxins that are released when the organism dies, so killing the algae would produce even more toxins in the water.

Usually, cold spells break up or kill off some of the algae, but not this time. "That's due, in part, to having red tide and a very cold winter", said Mezich.

Higher than normal concentrations are called blooms and the toxins in them can kill fish, crabs, and other marine life.

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