Story at a glance
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says 841 manatee deaths occurred between Jan. 1 and July 2, 2021.
- That breaks the previous record of 830 deaths reported during the whole of 2013.
- Biologists believe years of water pollution have damaged enough seagrass to leave manatees in the area without a sufficient food source.
A record number of manatees have died this year in Florida, mostly due to starvation as large amounts of seagrass have died off, according to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The FWC reports that 841 manatee deaths occurred between Jan. 1 and July 2, 2021, surpassing the previous record of 830 deaths that were reported during the whole of 2013. With more than five months left in the year, the death toll will likely continue to increase.
At least 63 of the 841 deaths this year were the result of boat strikes.
The number is an alarming increase from the total number of deaths recorded in the same time frame last year. Just 354 manatee deaths occurred in the first six months of 2020.
“Unprecedented manatee mortality due to starvation was documented on the Atlantic coast this past winter and spring,” the FWC said. “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.”
Deaths also occurred in surrounding Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.
FWC officials in March declared the high rate of deaths an Unusual Mortality Event, which enables federal and state governments to help FWC in taking action to prevent more deaths. Biologists believe years of water pollution have damaged enough seagrass to leave manatees in the area without a sufficient food source, according to TCPalm news.
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