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2019 was a particularly dangerous year for manatees.


Manatee boating deaths reach record level in 2019

Lee and Brevard counties both saw significant watercraft-related fatalities.

Watercraft-related boat deaths for manatees in Florida reached a new height in 2019.

A preliminary report from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on manatee mortality delivered the startling revelation. As of Dec. 20, at least 130 manatees have died after collissions with boats in Florida waters.

The good news is just 574 manatees have been reported dead, much lower than the 804 reported in 2018.

But the number of watercraft-related deaths marks a substantial increase over recent years. In 2018, only 124 boat-connected manatee deaths have been reported by FWC. Notably, 2018 and 2019 mortality figures both remain preliminary and can change.

There were 111 boat-related deaths in 2017 and 106 in 2016, according to final mortality statistics from the agency.

But 2019 is the first year boat-connected sea cow deaths have broken 130, and that report doesn’t cover the last 11 days of the year.

There have been fewer manatee deaths attributed to natural causes. FWC lists 76 such deaths in 2019, the lowest number since 2015. In 2018, there were 225 such deaths. And there are also fewer manatee deaths being listed with a cause still underdetermined (91 in 2019 as opposed to 106 in 2018).

As for where the watercraft deaths take place, it’s unsurprisingly coastal communities with boating populations where collisions occur. Only 26 of Florida’s 67 counties reported any watercraft-related Manatee deaths. But a couple of those do stand out.

Some 25 of the boating-related manatee deaths for the year so far occurred in Lee County. That’s nearly 20% of all such fatalities. Many of those occurred in Bokeelia Pass, the Caloosahatchee River or Estero Bay, all areas popular for fishing and boating.

Another 16 of the watercraft-connected deaths were reported in Brevard County, where the Indian and Banana rivers both suffered significant losses.

But other counties, even in more heavily populated areas, saw far fewer board colliding with sea cows than those two counties.

Volusia County reported 10 watercraft manatee deaths while Pinellas County reported nine. Hillsborough and Collier counties each reported seven, while Citrus County reported six.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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