CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – The Clearwater Marine Aquarium will announce plans for a new manatee rehabilitation center on Wednesday.
The announcement is coming amid the recent red tide crisis across Tampa Bay and the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME), primarily occurring on Florida’s east coast, where manatees are dying due to lack of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon.
According to a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a total of 850 manatees have died across the state as of July 9.
In its report, the FWC makes a note regarding the UME the Indian River Lagoon.
“Because of the large number of manatee deaths documented in this Atlantic event, the preliminary statewide mortality number for the first half of 2021 has surpassed the previous highest annual statewide number of 830 mortalities from 2013,” the report states.
There is better news, however, as the report goes on to state, “as temperatures warmed up and manatees on the Atlantic coast dispersed to other habitat for foraging, the numbers of malnourished carcasses and manatees in need of rescue decreased.”
FWC said watercraft-related incidents lead the cause of death in manatees in June.
The exact details of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium center, including the location, are not yet known, but a news conference will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
While CMA is currently not yet home to a manatee rehabilitation facility, teams due provide rescue to endangered manatees as well as tagging and tracking released manatees. The aquarium also has programs leading manatee conservation in Belize and Cuba.
There are currently five federally permitted acute care facilities for manatees in the state, including ZooTampa and SeaWorld Orlando. These locations treat sick, injured or orphaned Florida manatees.
To report a sick or injured manatee, call FWC’s wildlife alert toll-free number at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), or *FWC or #FWC.