In the first half of 2021, between January 1 and July 2, 841 manatees died in Florida’s waters.
This is the record manatee deaths count in Florida, overpassing 830 manatee deaths in 2013. In 2013, the manatees died mainly because of the algae toxins.
In the first half of 2021, most manatee deaths were due to starvation.
In the wintertime, manatees were migrating through the lagoons on Florida’s east coast, specifically the Indian River Lagoon. With no food in the Lagoon due to the high water pollution, manatees starved to death.
When the weather became warmer, the manatees migrated to other places in Florida’s waters, and the number of manatees dying from starvation declined.
Although the numbers have lowered, the situation is still serious and is likely to reoccur next year if nothing is done to protect the environment.
The Indian River Lagoon is an extreme example, but seagrass is slowly disappearing from Florida’s waters. This is happening due to the nutrient pollution — sewage and fertilizer being released into the water.
With nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage and fertilizers, algae are growing on the surface and preventing sunlight from getting through. This nutrient pollution creates ‘dead zones’ where no living organism can survive. So, of course, the seagrass cannot grow there either.
Manatees are herbivores, so with no seagrass, they have almost no chance of survival.
Another significant threat to Manatees is boats, with 63 manatee deaths in Florida this year only.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, with other organizations and government help, is working on restoring the manatee’s habitat.
With 100,000 chemicals produced globally, and most of them ending up in the ocean, saving manatee habitat will be a difficult job.
But, the conservation efforts saved manatees from extinction before, so we can hope that it will happen again.