Saving ocean animals: The scourge of Red Tide

Global Business

Red Tide is back in Florida. 2018 was one of the worst years on record for harmful algae blooms, a natural yearly phenomenon along the Gulf of Mexico that kills marine life and can make surrounding air difficult to breathe.
CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports. 

Some blame last year’s spike on an overuse of agricultural fertilizers. 

Researchers in Florida have been busy looking for solutions to defend the ecosystem from this threat, especially some of the most vulnerable animals, the sea turtles. And they’ve found a promising treatment, using the same approach that works on humans who’ve overdosed on cocaine.

It’s called ‘intravenous lipid emulsion’ – or ILE.

Charlie Manire, the lead veterinarian at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, and his team, get the credit.

“So he said the ILE is working with these drug overdose cases in humans and brave toxins is also lipophilic, also likes to buy into fat, so maybe if we inject the substance into the turtles, it would have a similar recovery process. 60849 lead to a similar recovery process and he was right,”explains Justin Perrault, Director of Research at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.  

In the treatment, special fats are injected into the bloodstream to flush out toxin, the same way it’s done with humans with cocaine addiction. 

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is collaborating with the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife to test the therapy on birds in addition to turtles. 

Dr. Heather Barron says that she gets at least 40 to 50 birds per week. She is  the Medical and Research Director for the Clinic for Rehabilitation for Wildlife in Sanibel Island, Florida.

“We’ve definitely seen a lot of sea birds coming in with red tide poisoning over the past six weeks or so, every single day there are a lot of birds coming in that we’re seeing. Double crested cormorants tend to be the poster child for this disease. Today alone we’ve had a couple of double crested cormorants that have come in.” 

Dr. Barron is the first researcher to successfully administer the new therapy to birds. Early results show progress.

“What we’ve shown is that traditionally in the literature, birds affected by brave toxins generally had about a 25 to 30% survival rate. With this new treatment we’re actually showing about an 85% rate.”

These research centers in Florida are working hard to save the wildlife.

The treatment’s success builds hope that even more species can be saved, including ocean mammals.  But with red tide events increasing with climate change, the fear is that science will always be playing catch up to the damage caused by humans.