Mystery of Green Sea Turtles Too Weak to Swim and Dying Manatees Along Florida Coast from Jacksonville to Brevard County to Indian River Lagoon.

“Most of the turtles are stranding from the ocean with lethargy and low glucose not able to swim.”

— Shanon Gann, Brevard County, Florida, Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center

“We haven’t seen a blade of sea grass this year. So those poor manatees in Brevard County are starving to death.”

— Leesa Souto, Ph.D., Exec. Dir., Marine Resources Council, Orlando, Florida

 

As the New Year of 2021 has unfolded, a mystery has developed in a stretch of beach 135 miles long from Titusville in Brevard County, Florida, north to Jacksonville. Beginning in February 2021, big, beautiful sea turtles — mostly Green species — have been washing up too weak to swim. Cause unknown.
As the New Year of 2021 has unfolded, a mystery has developed in a stretch of beach 135 miles long from Titusville in Brevard County, Florida, north to Jacksonville. Beginning in February 2021, big, beautiful sea turtles — mostly Green species — have been washing up too weak to swim. Cause unknown. Click to enlarge.

 

March 12, 2021  Brevard, Florida –   Green sea turtles have been coming ashore from the ocean and lagoons in increasing numbers over the past few weeks along the Florida coast from Jacksonville to Brevard County.  They are too weak to swim. They’re being taken to the Brevard Zoo and to specialty turtle rehab centers around Florida.

Jess Patterson, Coordinator of the Brevard Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center, examining a green turtle brought in from the Port St. John area by Ecological Associates, Inc. She says, "Brevard Zoo has taken in several sea turtles who have mysteriously washed ashore the last couple of days from areas in Brevard, Volusia, and other north Florida areas. Each turtle the zoo helps costs over $100. If you want to donate to help, visit www.brevardzoo.org and look for the donations tab." Image March 10, 2021 by Tim Shortt/Florida Today.
Jess Patterson, Coordinator of the Brevard Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center, examined a green turtle brought in from the Port St. John area. She says, “Brevard Zoo has taken in several sea turtles that have mysteriously washed ashore the last couple of days from areas in Brevard, Volusia, and other north Florida areas. Each turtle the zoo helps costs over $100. If you want to donate to help, visit www.brevardzoo.org and look for the donations tab.” Image March 10, 2021, by Tim Shortt/Florida Today.

On Tuesday, March 9, 2021, nine turtles were found stranded along the coast. “That’s a lot of turtles to come to our facility in just one day. They are covered in barnacles, algae, dirt and sponges. We’ve had a few that have died and the rest are hanging in there.”

Two young green sea turtles that washed ashore in Brevard County, Florida, in the second week of March 2021, also too weak to swim. What is wrong?
Two young green sea turtles that washed ashore in Brevard County, Florida, in the second week of March 2021, also too weak to swim. No one yet knows why.

 

More Than 400 Manatees Have Starved To Death Since January 1st in Florida’s Brevard County Indian River Lagoon Region

More than a dozen manatees in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, Florida, have starved to death because sea grass is suddenly scarce. Image by Jan Wesner Childs/Weather.com.
At least half of the total mortalities have occurred in the Indian River Lagoon of Brevard County, Florida. Necropsy reports confirm severe emaciation. Cause of death?  Probably no seagrass because of large algae blooms that destroy seagrass, the main food source for manatees.  Image by Jan Wesner Childs/Weather.com.
Indian River Lagoon is in Port St. Lucie, Florida, at the southern end of the Indian River long coastal run from Cape Canaveral to near Miami.
Indian River Lagoon is in Port St. Lucie, Florida, at the southern end of the Indian River long coastal run from Cape Canaveral to near Miami. Click to enlarge.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s marine pathology lab has been investigating the large manatee death in 2021 and veterinarian Martine de Wit, D. V. M.,  says the water animals “are severely emaciated. Half of the dead manatees are adults. Their guts are empty, their fat and muscle depleted, their livers atrophied and they show other signs of starvation to an extent that I have not seen before in manatees.”

Veterinarian De Wit says back in 2011 there was a “superbloom” of algae that dimmed sunlight getting to seagrass for months. Since then, almost 60% of the Indian River Lagoon seagrass in Brevard County has vanished as large algae blooms have repeated. And underneath the thick algae blooms, denied sunlight, the seagrass died. The hungry manatees had to scrounge through the algae and other less nutritious lagoon plants.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate in the first two months of 2021. The current number of 432 starved to death manatees is three times higher than this same time of year since 2016, when there were 129 manatee deaths on average.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate in the first two months of 2021. The current number of 432 dead manatees is three times higher than the same time of year in 2016,  when there were 129 manatee deaths in the winter.

Five years ago in 2016, Florida Wildlife Conservation  biologists investigated malnourished manatees that died from something attacking their nervous systems, causing the water animals to drown.

Florida wildlife officials have now asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare the manatee die-off an “Unusual Marine Mammal Mortality Event,” which would trigger money for a formal federal investigation.

Also see:

01-26-2018 – Climate Warming Is Turning 99% of Baby Green Sea Turtles Female


More Information:

09-20-2019 – “Nature Is Unraveling.” United States and Canada Have Lost 3 Billion Birds Since 1970.
08-13-2019 – Warning! Toxic Blue-Green Algae Is Poisoning American Lakes, Ponds and Reservoirs Killing Pets.


Websites:

What Can You Do to Save Sea Turtles?  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/what-can-you-do-save-sea-turtles

“Florida manatee deaths surge past 400 in first two months of 2021,” Phys.org, March 9, 2021:  https://phys.org/news/2021-03-florida-manatee-deaths-surge-months.html

Living with Florida Manatees:  https://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/manatee/

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:  https://myfwc.com/


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