At Least 841 Manatees in Florida Have Died in 2021 So Far

A manatee recovering at a critical care center in ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa, Florida, in January 2021.

A manatee recovering at a important care middle in ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa, Florida, in January 2021.
Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui / AFP (Getty Images)

Manatees, the mild giants of the seas, are perishing in unprecedented numbers.

As the TC Palm reports, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) information released last Friday exhibits {that a} file 841 West Indian manatees died throughout the first six months of 2021, with the deaths disproportionately clustered in Brevard County’s 156-mile stretch of the Indian River Lagoon. That’s greater than 2013, when an estimated 830 manatees died of publicity to red tide.

In Brevard County alone, a file 312 manatees died. The FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute attributed the surge in deaths to hunger ensuing from mass die-off of sea grass, the manatee’s primary diet, in Indian River Lagoon. Warming temperatures because the summer time months approached later brought about the manatees to disperse, culminating in a spate of deadly collisions with boats and different watercraft in June.

To put this in context, the FWC estimated Florida’s manatee inhabitants at simply 7,250 earlier than the die-off, which means a double-digit share may have been worn out. As CNN noted, different estimates by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club have been significantly decrease. Florida wildlife officers had declared an “unusual mortality event” concerning manatees again in March 2021.

“Unprecedented manatee mortality due to starvation was documented on the Atlantic coast this past winter and spring,” the FWC wrote in a report. “Most deaths occurred during the colder months when manatees migrated to and through the Indian River Lagoon, where the majority of seagrass has died off.”

“As temperatures warmed up and manatees on the Atlantic coast dispersed to other habitat for foraging, the numbers of malnourished carcasses and manatees in need of rescue decreased,” the institute added. “The recurrence of watercraft-related mortality as the leading cause of death in manatees necropsied in the Atlantic region in June, consistent with similar observations on the Gulf coast, underscores the need for previously identified threats such as watercraft-related mortality to continue to be recognized as a concern for the population. In addition, the long-term health effects of prolonged starvation in manatees that survived the Atlantic event to this point are not yet known.”

According to, St. Johns River Management District officers say that water air pollution has contributed immensely to algal blooms in the lagoon and the disappearance of an estimated 58% of its seagrass since 2009. Manatees eat about 5%-10% of their physique weight in vegetation every day, translating to a possible consumption in the lots of of kilos. The New Republic reported earlier this yr that water high quality has plummeted in the previous decade resulting from uncared for septic tanks and municipal sewer traces that spew raw sewage, in addition to fertilizer runoff and different chemical pollution like glyphosate, which is used in Bayer AG’s fashionable Roundup herbicide. The drawback is worsened by the state’s increasingly severe hurricane seasons, throughout which heavy rains wash big quantities of algae-fueling air pollution into waterways.

“The decline didn’t happen overnight. The stunning water views, the fishing and recreational opportunities that drew people to the area have resulted in the water quality conditions we see today,” the district’s govt director, Ann Shortelle, had warned in a March 2021 statement. “Too many nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, are entering the lagoon from overfertilized lawns, faulty sewage treatment and leaching from septic tanks.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service eliminated the West Indian manatee from the endangered species listing throughout the Trump administration in 2017, citing increased population numbers. The determination was heavily opposed by conservation teams and environmental activists. Manatees stay beneath excessive menace resulting from red tide and different algal blooms, boat collisions, chilly snaps, and in some cases, harassment or attacks by humans. Other threats embrace developments and water pumps which have lower off pure springs in central and northern Florida that manatees use to overwinter, which may imply they take shelter in non-ideal environments like canals or areas the place energy crops discharge heat water, in accordance to the Miami Herald.

The TC Palm reported {that a} coalition of 16 environmental teams and clear water-dependent companies had pressured Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency for the Indian River Lagoon. A Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson, Dee Ann Mill, instructed the TC Palm such an order was pointless because the state authorities is already responding and allotted $8 million (double the same old quantity) to manatee restoration similar to habitat rehabilitation in 2021.

The TC Palm added that members of Congress are contemplating the bipartisan Marine Mammal Research and Response Act, which might allocate $42 million over the course of six years to assist with the restoration of marine mammal populations and create a database to trace stories of sick or useless mammals.

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