With months left in 2021, FWC says manatee deaths surpass annual record

More manatees have died so far this year than any other year on record, according to a new report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

"Makes me feel sad because they are beautiful animals," said Carlos Diaz, who was visiting Blue Springs State Park in Orange City on Monday.

The agency said from Jan. 1, 2021, to July 2, 2021, it recorded 841 deaths beating the total annual record of 830 in 2013.

"I can’t say I didn’t see it coming because we were reaching that number over the last couple of months and over the last couple of weeks," said Cora Berchen with Save the Manatee Club. 

The organization said algae fueled by pollution killed off seagrass which leads to starvation, particularly in the winter months. 

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"Manatees are not finding adequate food sources so this is really the number one thing that’s playing into this record high mortality this year," she explained. 

With the boating season underway and red tide problems on the west side of Florida, she says the number will continue to increase.

FWC sent this statement to FOX 35 News via email:

"The Florida manatee population has increased significantly over the last 30 years concurrent with management actions to reduce threats such as watercraft mortality. These factors lead to the reclassification of manatees from endangered to threatened by the USFWS in 2017. The threatened designation indicates that manatees are not at imminent risk of extinction but recognizes that special conservation measures must remain in place for the species to persist. We will carefully analyze data and information from the Atlantic mortality event and provide that information to the USFWS. We do not yet know what impact, if any, the recent mortality event will have on federal listing status or the manatee’s long-term population outlook. We are committed to working with partners and our dedicated funding to identify actions necessary to conserve manatees. We will continue to evaluate the next steps based on what we learn from this event." 

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