Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
A record-breaking number of manatees have already died in Florida this year — only halfway through 2021.
As of July 2, 832 manatees have died since Jan., according to recently released data from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
State officials said the manatees are primarily dying from starvation due to the loss of seagrass beds.
“Unprecedented manatee mortality due to starvation was documented on the Atlantic coast this past winter and spring,” Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote in its announcement of the record. “Most deaths occurred during the colder months when manatees migrated to and through the Indian River Lagoon, where the majority of seagrass has died off.”
If Florida’s manatees keep dying at this rate, the number of dead manatee deaths will double that of last year.
Florida lawmakers appropriated $8 million for the state’s beloved sea cows this past Session to help restore seagrass and to help identify the root causes of the starvation of manatees seen over the past winter, particularly in the Indian River Lagoon, which runs through Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois’ Brevard County district. In Brevard, 312 manatees have perished.
“Seagrass depends on sunlight. Because of the algal bloom situation we’ve had around the state in years past, the water has become very, very cloudy, and the sunlight cannot penetrate to near the bottom to support the seagrass,” Sioris explained.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife declared the increase in deaths an Unusual Mortality Event and is investigating the cause.
The federal government says approximately 6,300 manatees live in Florida waters, up from about 1,300 in the early 1990s.
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