TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A total of 811 West Indian manatees have died so far in 2021, according to a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The latest numbers have been reported from Jan. 1 through June 18.
Out of those deaths currently reported this year, 76 have been reported in the Tampa Bay area.
Many of the manatee deaths this year stem from an “Unusual Mortality Event,” or a “UME” in the animal.
The east coast of the state has been hardest hit by the UME, specifically Indian River Lagoon, which is a 150-mile stretch of inland river system.
According to Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director of Save The Manatee Club when 8 On Your Side spoke to him in March, the height of the cause stems from a lack of food for the animals.
“For decades, there have been too many nutrients going into the northern Indian River Lagoon in particular. It finally kicked over to the point where seagrass started dying in large numbers, up to 50-some-thousand some acres,” he said. “It’s a sequence of events where too much nutrients led to harmful algae blooms, which shaded the seagrasses, caused the seagrasses to die, that reduced the forage available for manatees over many different years of decline.”
Florida manatees are protected on both the state and federal level. Save The Manatee Club has released a video on how to tell if a manatee is in distressed or sick on their website and Facebook page.
The organization also noted that it is illegal to give manatees food, even lettuce. There are different ways for the public to help save these gentle giants here in Florida.
To report a distressed or dead manatee, Floridians and visitors can go online to the FWC website or call 888-404-FWCC. Cell phone users can also call #FWC or *FWC.