Longest red tide bloom in over a decade kills hundreds of marine mammals along Florida's west coast

The ongoing toxic algae bloom is considered to be the longest red tide outbreak for the Gulf of Mexico in over a decade, and officials say it will most likely last until 2019.

High concentrations of toxic algae, known as blooms, have affected at least 120 miles of the peninsula's Gulf of Mexico coast since November 2017.

Officials say nearly 300 sea turtles have died because of the toxic bloom. Pelicans, manatees and a whale shark have also washed ashore since this unprecedented bloom started.

Not only does red tide affect marine life, but it also poses health risks to beachgoers along the west coast of Florida.

Red tide blooms produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, known as K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die.

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Red tide kills hundreds of animals off Florida coast
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Red tide kills hundreds of animals off Florida coast
CAPTIVA, FL - AUGUST 01: A fish is seen washed ashore after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Captiva, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: A loggerhead sea turtle is cared for at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, after it was found washed ashore after becoming sick in the red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Dr. Heather Barron, from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, said, 'this year's red tide is absolutely the worst she has seen for adult sea turtles,'. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CAPTIVA, FL - AUGUST 01: A Red fish is seen washed ashore after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Captiva, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: A Goliath grouper is seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: A Goliath grouper and other fish are seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: Dead fish line the shoreline along the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CAPTIVA, FL - AUGUST 01: Sally Bowman takes a picture of a dead Red fish that washed ashore after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Captiva, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: A Goliath grouper and other fish are seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL , FL - AUGUST 01: Fish are seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CAPTIVA, FL - AUGUST 01: Veterinarian Dr. Heather Barron, from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, cares for a Loggerhead sea turtle that was found washed ashore after becoming sick in the red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Dr. Barron said, 'this year's red tide is absolutely the worst she has seen for adult sea turtles,'. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: Veterinarian Dr. Heather Barron, from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, checks the health of a kemp's ridley sea turtle that was found washed ashore after becoming sick in the red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Dr. Barron said, 'this year's red tide is absolutely the worst she has seen for adult sea turtles,' as they rehabilitate some of the turtles being found needing help. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL, FL - AUGUST 01: Veterinarian Dr. Heather Barron, from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, checks the health of a kemp's ridley sea turtle that was found washed ashore after becoming sick in the red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Dr. Barron said, 'this year's red tide is absolutely the worst she has seen for adult sea turtles,' as they rehabilitate some of the turtles being found needing help. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL , FL - AUGUST 01: Fish are seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SANIBEL , FL - AUGUST 01: Fish are seen washed ashore the Sanibel causeway after dying in a red tide on August 1, 2018 in Sanibel, Florida. Red tide season usually lasts from October to around February, but the current red tide has stayed along the coast for around 10 months, killing massive amounts of fish as well as sea turtles, manatees and a whale shark swimming in the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release these toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation.

For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, a deputy district engineer with the Army Corps, gave a 40-minute presentation to frustrated residents of Cape Coral, Florida, explaining why they had to release nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee when the level of the lake approaches 15 feet above sea level, because a major rain event could lead to catastrophic flooding around the lake and the loss of lives and property.

The release of nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee, combined with high temperatures have triggered this toxic algae bloom unlike anything southwest Florida has ever seen.

"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) has been monitoring this bloom since it started in November 2017. FWC staff have been out in the field to confirm species identification and location, estimate of number dead fish and obtain samples from fish carcasses," spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Michelle Kerr said.

According to the FWC, the first record of a marine mammal die-off caused by red tide occurred off the southwest coast of Florida in 1946 and 1947.

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If you see a sick, injured or dead sea turtle or marine mammal call 1-888-404-3922.

To report a bird mortality visit here.

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