No easy fix seen for alarming manatee death rate in Florida

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee death rates in 2021 have been troubling, especially as Florida has already broken the all-time record of deaths at 841 in a single year.

The leading factor in the record number of deaths is due to the trouble in Indian River Lagoon. Substantial seagrass loss early in the year led to more than 300 manatee deaths in Brevard County alone. However, the problem is not as easy as replacing the seagrass, because the environment is not healthy enough to sustain growth.

As we move closer toward the winter months, and we get closer to manatees going back to their safe spaces for winter, is there a way to prevent this from happening again in 2022? Could we provide a food resource or lead the migration pattern to healthy waters?

“I don’t know how realistic is it to get, you know, some type of food over to the population,” said Justin Bloom, the Founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper’s. “Manatees, I mean they’re adaptable. They have been around for a long time, they can find other food sources and other areas, hopefully.

“I don’t know how realistic it is to try to meet them where they may go in to Indian River Lagoon or elsewhere and to try to feed them. It might ultimately be harmful because then they think that every year at that time, maybe they go back and expect that there’s going to be free lunch.”

Now it is unknown how these manatees will migrate once it starts to cool off again. Bloom explains that “the medium and longer-term (estimate) has to be on reducing pollutions from its source, and that is hard. I think that is the job we elect our representatives to do, to protect us from a crashing estuary.”

Meanwhile, you can do a small part by being vigilant when out boating as boating-related accidents have increased since the migration out of lagoons according Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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