Why Are Manatees Dying in Florida?

Starvation due to seagrass loss, biologists believe
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2021 4:00 AM CDT
Why Are Manatees Dying in Florida?
In this Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, manatees crowd together near the warm-water outflows from Florida Power & Light's plant in Riviera Beach, Fla.   (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

(Newser) – Between the start of 2021 and July 2, 841 manatee deaths were recorded in Florida. Despite the fact that the year was only half over, that number set an all-time record for the state, WFLA reports. The previous high, 830 deaths, was recorded for the whole of 2013. That time around, it was due to a toxic red tide outbreak. This time, biologists believe pollution is killing the seagrass beds in the area, causing the animals, which are classified as a threatened population, to starve.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which put together the report on the deaths, believes there's just not enough food along the manatee migration route on the Atlantic coast, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Most of the deaths occurred during the winter months. "As temperatures warmed up and manatees on the Atlantic coast dispersed to other habitat(s) for foraging, the numbers of malnourished carcasses and manatees in need of rescue decreased," officials said. But in June, boating accidents rose to the top of the list as the top cause of manatee deaths. (Read more Florida stories.)

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