2021 becomes deadliest year for Florida manatees
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Manatee deaths in Florida this year have surpassed the previous record that was set in 2018.
As of June 18, officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released an updated manatee mortality chart that listed 811 deaths for 2021. Fifty-nine of those deaths were caused by a boat strike, and 113 manatees passed from natural causes.
2018 was previously the deadliest year for manatees, registering 804 deaths. Of those deaths, 58 were caused by boat strikes and 105 died of natural causes.
The United State’s Fish and Wildlife service classified this occurrence as an Unusual Mortality Event.
Jon Moore, a marine biologist and oceanographer at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, told NBC2 in a previous interview that the main issue is worsening water quality in Florida’s waterways. The decline in water quality is caused by wastewater contamination and nutrient runoff that cause toxic red tides and overgrowths of algae, known as algal blooms.
“The algal blooms are clouding the water and cutting off light, so the seagrass can’t photosynthesize and sustain themselves,” Moore said, adding that manatees face starvation and malnourishment as a result.
Manatees were considered “endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but a politically contentious decision in 2017 changed the animals’ conservation status to “threatened.”
“This year’s mortality event may require greater protection for manatees, and we might need to bump them back up into endangered status,” Moore said.NBC2 (WBBH-TV)