By Manuel Bojorquez
2 August 2018

MIAMI (CBS News) – Thousands of fish, eels and turtles are dying, sometimes as far as the eye can see, in parts of southwest Florida. Just this week, one of several lifeless manatees was pulled from the water. The suspected culprit is a toxic algae bloom known as "red tide."

Ozzie Fisher has been a fishing guide in the area for more than 20 years and is already seeing cancellations.

Map showing the extent of a toxic algae bloom, or 'red tide', spanning 150 miles on the southwest coast of Florida, 2 August 2018. Graphic: CBS Evening News

"It really stinks," he said. "Imagine if you paid $5,000 to come here on vacation and you tell your wife and your 3-year-old to go on the beach and breathe this in, you can't do that. It's bad."

The toxins can also be harmful to humans, causing respiratory illnesses for some beachgoers.

The algae and bacteria are usually found in pockets, but this year they've mushroomed to stretch over 150 miles. Warmer waters and runoff from lakes and streams can fuel the problem.

The red tide, which typically goes away in the spring, has persisted for nine months. Conservationists like Heather Barron say the overall effect on fragile species like sea turtles, which have turned up sick or dead, can be long-lasting.

"I've cried three times already today," Barron said. "Imagining one day my three small children may grow up and these animals may not be here anymore. The bottom line is we’ve got to clean up our waters."

Dead fish are scattered on a beach in southwest Florida on 2 August 2018, victims of the largest toxic algae bloom since 2006. The toxic algae bloom, or 'red tide', spans 150 miles on the southwest coast of Florida. Photo: CBS Evening News

On Sanibel Island, cleanup crews haven't been able to keep up with this putrid wave of dead sea life, and it extends for miles in either direction. There's no telling how long this could last — the worst bloom lasted 17 months in 2006.

Worst "red tide" toxic algae bloom in years killing turtles, manatees in Florida

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