Manatees in Brevard County are dying, and the cause may be linked to the algae bloom that killed hundreds of fish in the Indian River Lagoon back in March.

  • 9 manatees have died since May
  • FWC: Deaths may be linked to macro algae
  • Macro algae is flourishing since algae bloom depleted sea grass in March

Since May, nine manatees have died suddenly. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has declared their deaths to be an unusual mortality event.

An algae bloom in late March, killed more than 65,000 pounds of fish in the Indian River Lagoon. According to FWC officials, that same bloom killed off natural vegetation, like sea grass.

Sea grass is a main source of food for the Manatee, and with the depletion of the grass, the mammals have been on the hunt for food.

FWC manatee specialist Dr. Martine De Wit explained manatees, as well as other marine mammals, have turned to eating a new macro algae that is flourishing in the lagoon.

That algae is large and leafy, resembling seaweed. Dr. De Wit believes when the manatee eat this particular algae, their systems quickly go into acute shock, causing the animals to drown.

Now locals are not only concerned this sudden death of manatees will continue, but also what would happen if another algae bloom disrupts the ecosystem again.

"There is a great deal of concern that we will have more fish kills as the summer goes on," Vince Lamb from the Indian River Lagoon said. 

"Of course now we have the unusual mortality of manatees. So the pattern is there we were just hoping it wouldn't happen again."

While Dr. De Wit conducts necropsies -- autopsies on the manatees -- the FWC is monitoring the algae situation in the Lagoon.

While they try to find what particular macro algae caused these sudden deaths, we were told they can only stand by and hope the sea grass grows back before more manatees die.

The FWC is asking anyone who spots an injured, struggling or dead manatee in the area to please contact the Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.