Manatee deaths break record, state on pace for more

The first seven months of this year have seen a record 900-plus manatees die.
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The first seven months of this year have seen a record 900-plus manatees die.

The total is expected to hit as many as 1,200 by the end of the year.

The Save the Manatee Club and two other nonprofits have given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warning they plan to sue if more isn’t done to protect the sea mammal.

State data shows 905 Manatees have already died this year, breaking the record of 830 in 2017, and it’s only going to get worse, according to Pat Rose of the Save the Manatee Club.

“We’re looking at the potential of hundreds of more dying from starvation,” said Rose.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was told the problem is a lack of seagrasses, particularly along the east coast.

“If it’s a red tide, it comes and goes. If it’s a cold kill, it comes and goes. This one we’re uncertain how long the impact is going to be, but we know this forage not going to come back overnight or even in a few years,” said FWC Research Institute Director Gil McRae.

Three nonprofits, including Save the Manatee Club have filed notice they intend to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to try and force more funding to deal with the deaths.

The lack of food is so severe, state and federal agencies along with nonprofits are exploring putting stressed manatees in rehab centers or even proving food this winter.

“Manatees can eat up to 100 pounds of food or more a day in terms of aquatic plants. If you times that by 1,000 or 2,000 manatees, that’s a monumental task,” said Rose.

Rose believes the FWS will concede that there is a problem without having to file the suit.

“We think that this will work out in a way to the benefit of the manatees,” said Rose.

Before seagrasses began disappearing, the manatee, statistically, had just a half percent chance of becoming extinct in the next one hundred years, but with the water quality issues, there is now a six percent chance.

Two Florida congressmen have filed a bill to move the manatee from threatened status to endangered, which would free up more money and staff to save the population.

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