Florida manatees dying at record rates

October 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: Warm springs may be best winter refuge for Florida manatees

Related Stories

Warm springs may be best winter refuge for Florida manatees

March 20, 2013

Natural warm water springs may offer the best protection to Florida manatees trying to survive cold winter periods, according to research published Mar. 20 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by David Laiast of the Marine ...

Manatees paddle to warm water to escape Fla. chill

December 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 and into warmer ...

Government to remap manatee habitat

September 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

Researchers identify genes that give cannabis its flavor

March 29, 2017

UBC scientists have scanned the genome of cannabis plants to find the genes responsible for giving various strains their lemony, skunky or earthy flavors, an important step for the budding legal cannabis industry.

A bird's blind spot plays an important role in its vision

March 29, 2017

The width of a bird's visual binocular field is partially determined by the size of the blind area in front of its head, according to a study published March 29, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Luke Tyrrell and ...

Cats found to like humans more than thought

March 29, 2017

(Phys.org)—A trio of researchers with Oregon State University and Monmouth University has conducted experiments with cats, and has found that they appear to like humans more than expected. In their paper published in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.