Good Samaritan Saves Manatee From Falling Victim to Toxic Seagrass

Red tide seagrass is toxic when eaten by manatees.

Thanks to the quick action of a thoughtful boat club worker, a Florida manatee believed to have eaten toxic red tide seagrass has a second chance at life.

On a Tuesday morning, Mikko Claxton told WFLA he was taking photos near the Bishop Museum in Bradenton, Florida when he heard about a distressed manatee. Claxton said he found Don Swartz, an employee at nearby Freedom Boat Club, holding the manatee with its nostrils above water.

"I asked him what was wrong with the manatee, and he said they believe it's due to red tide, that it's having trouble breathing," Claxton told the local news station.

Swartz and a coworker reportedly followed the manatee by boat after their manager got a radio call about a lifeless manatee.

"Fifteen minutes later, the manatee rolled over and started to drown," Swartz recalled to WFLA.

Swartz jumped in, rolled the approximately nine-foot manatee over, and held it for 40 minutes until rescuers arrived. During that time, Claxton snapped a photo of Swartz caring for the sick animal.

Rescuers were able to load the manatee onto a truck using a stretcher and transported her to SeaWorld for treatment. Experts say she has a 95% chance of recovery.

Man Saves Manatee Toxic Seagrass
Mikko Claxton Photography

What is Red Tide Seagrass?

Red tide occurs when there is a higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic algae in the water. In Florida, red tides caused by the toxin-producing organism Karenia brevis can result in massive fish kills and the deaths of marine mammals. Recently, red tide has proven particularly catastrophic for Florida's already fragile manatee population.

If you see a manatee in distress, you should immediately report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) by calling 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

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