Florida manatees dying at record rates

Oct 31, 2013
A pair of manatees swim near NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 13, 2010

Toxic algae blooms that deplete the water of essential oxygen are killing a record number of manatees in Florida this year, biologists say.

A total of 769 have died trough Tuesday, making 2013 the deadliest year ever for the blubbery denizens of the deep found off the Florida coast, Save the Manatee Club announced.

With more than two months left this year, nearly twice the number of manatees have already died compared to all of 2012, which saw 392 confirmed manatee deaths.

The last record—766 dead manatees—was set in 2010, when an unusually cold winter and spring killed hundreds of the delicate creatures, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Manatees live near the coastline, and when the weather turns cold, they often shelter near springs or in warmer discharge canals at power plants to avoid the condition known as "cold stress," which can weaken and eventually kill the aquatic mammals.

"With 2013's catastrophic loss of manatee lives coming so close on the heels of the mass mortality suffered during 2010, the already difficult job to ensure the survival of these gentle and defenseless marine mammals has been made all the more challenging, and it's not over yet," said the club's executive director Patrick Rose.

"What we put into our waters, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers, together with how we use our waterways, all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species."

The club's director of science and conservation blamed two "unusual mortality events" for this year's major losses.

Toxic red-tide bloom killed 276 manatees this winter and spring in southwestern Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Most of the deaths took place in the Cape Cora-Fort Myers region off the Gulf coast.

The second event remains unexplained, but saw more than 100 manatees die of undetermined causes in Brevard County off the Atlantic coast.

Tripp said those deaths were linked to various algal blooms and the loss of 47,000 acres (19,000 hectares) of seagrass since 2010.

Of the total number of deaths this year, 123 were stillborn, newborn or young calves, in another record for that mortality category.

Manatees are a protected species in Florida, highly affected by urban development in recent years along the coast in the central and southern parts of the state.

In the bay of Miami, where families of three or four manatees are commonly spotted along the shore, many of the animals are killed after being struck by boats.

Explore further: Declining catch rates in Caribbean green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Manatees paddle to warm water to escape Fla. chill

Dec 30, 2010

(AP) -- People aren't the only ones in Florida who don't like cold weather. Manatees - those giant aquatic mammals with the flat, paddle-shaped tails - are swimming out of the chilly Gulf of Mexico waters ...

Government to remap manatee habitat

Sep 30, 2009

It has been more than 30 years since federal wildlife managers formally mapped the places where endangered manatee live in Florida. On Tuesday, they acknowledged it's probably time for an update.

Recommended for you

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

13 hours ago

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

16 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...