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WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES: Dead fish, turtles, manatees wash up on southwest Florida beaches

A photo of red tide taken during a past outbreak.

(NOAA/Wikimedia Commons)

It may be interesting to look at, but an explosion of red tie algae off the coast of southwest Florida, is the killing of marine animals at a record pace, decimated the population of creatures, such as fish, sea turtles, manatees and more.

A number of news reports, including one from the Miami Herald, the detail of how extensive the damage is and how widespread has it become, ranging from Tampa Bay to the Florida Keys.

“This is terrible what we are enduring now, but it should be a wake-up call for people that clean water is important to more than just wild animals,” Heather Barron, a veterinarian and director of research at Sanibel’s CROW Clinic wildlife rescue center, told the Herald. “If the person dealing with all these hundreds of dying animals, I’m angry.”

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The Herald described the phenomenon, which is caused by dinoflagellates and other organisms that produce toxic substances harmful for the life in the sea, as “a red tide slaughterhouse.” Fox 13 noted, that when people see the red tide, it must be reported, or the devastating effects can worsen.

“They [the animals] are very disoriented, uncoordinated in the water, so eventually if they can’t they swim in an aquatic environment. They will drown most often,” said Gretchen Lovewell, the program manager for Mote Marine Laboratory Stranding Investigations Program (SIP), Fox 13 Tampa Bay.

Now that the sun has come we can really see the extent of the death on Siesta Key beach. Florida’s southwest of the waterways is startled by the red tide and a separate toxic algae bloom, which is believed to be linked to the resignation of Lake Okeechobee pic.twitter.com/b2U8gDn81H

— Mary Cowan (@KellieCowan) August 2, 2018

In addition to animals such as fish, sea turtles and manatees impacted, larger marine animals, such as whales, sharks are also at risk.

At the end of last month, a dead whale shark washed up on a beach of Sanibel Island in Florida. Wildlife officials ruled that it was probably killed by the current red tide bloom.

The higher concentration of the toxic substances, the more likely it is that the large sea creatures, such as a whale shark — may be affected by the bloom, Dr. Richard Bartleson, a research scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, told Fox News.

*graphic warning*

this is the red tide in florida now. they just released a bunch of overflow (lawn, sewer drain, farm manure, and nitrogen) of lake okeechobee.

it causes a large part of marinelife to die.

spread a.you.b. the message.

these innocent creatures😞 pic.twitter.com/dm6Pyd1UZZ

— quinnleaf (@quinnalyssa) August 1, 2018

Low concentrations of the Karenia brevis organism is considered to be one of 10 cells per liter of water, while a high concentration of — this has the ability to kill fish — typically starts at 500,000 cells per liter.

People have posted photos on social media of the horrific consequences of red tide.

SW FLORIDA ECOLOGICAL DISASTER: We have to face both Red Tide in the Gulf and toxic Blue-Green Algae of the Caloosahatchee. Photos are of a recent date, and in July, most of Lee County. Sharing and Spreading the Awareness! Full Gallery: https://t.co/uVxFG8k5sw pic.twitter.com/Q28inXTxSt

— Matt Devitt (@MattDevittWINK) August 1, 2018

Although it is a well-known phenomenon that occurs worldwide, red tide is especially bad in Florida this year, the worst since 2006, according to the Miami Herald. It has occurred almost annually since the 1800s.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines the phenomenon as a “common term used for a harmful algal bloom” (HAB), which can grow out of hand if not kept in check. It can also be deadly to humans, but this is not as widespread as the loss of life to marine life.

“HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their action may be on the rise,” the NOAA wrote in an article on its website. “HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the ‘health’ of the local and regional economy.”

So far, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has documented 287 sea turtle deaths since the bloom started in October last year, according to The Associated Press.

DEAD WHALE SHARK IN FLORIDA WASHED UP ON THE BEACH; RED TIDE IS PROBABLY KILLER

Usually red tide will be in Florida from October and in February, but the long-term period has a number to call for a permanent solution.

Sanibel, Florida. Mayor Kevin Ruane, the debt of the red bound, says the result of a “perfect storm on the coast of the contamination and a warm Wave ignited to flush nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee,” according to comments obtained by the Miami Herald.

“Everything they do is, of course, the fuel for the red tide,” Ruane added. “So, it is a catalyst in making the problem worse.”

Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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