Charlie Crist announces nearly $500K in federal assistance for Tampa Bay’s manatee crisis
Image via FWC.

Florida's manatees have been dying at unprecedented rates.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced federal dollars would soon be heading to the Tampa Bay area to help save the area’s dying manatees.

On his congressional Twitter account Monday, Crist said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing nearly $500,000 to help stave off manatee deaths occurring at unprecedented levels across the state.

Nearly $200,000 will go to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission field laboratories.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute is receiving nearly $100,000 for its post-release manatee monitoring program and $95,000 to increase the capacity of its manatee rehabilitation program.

The Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa will receive $95,000 to replace a mobile crane used to manage manatees at the David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center at the Lowry Park Zoo.

The funding comes after July closed with an additional 61 manatee deaths, bringing the state’s total recorded manatee deaths for 2021 as of Aug. 6 to 905.

If the current rate continues, Florida’s manatee deaths are on track to more than double deaths in 2020.

The record-breaking deaths were enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to declare an Unusual Mortality Event in February. Federal and state wildlife officials are investigating the cause.

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. 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,” explained the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in its publication of the manatee death counts.

Scientists are exploring both short and long-term and small and large-scale response options, including aquatic habitat restoration, according to FWC.

The state agency also suggested, “watercraft-related mortality to continue to be recognized as a concern for the population.”

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.

The previous manatee die-off record was set in 2013 at 830.

The federal government says about 6,300 manatees live in Florida waters, up from about 1,300 in the early 1990s.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].

One comment

  • Linwood Wright

    August 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Manatees are bad for Florida’s economy. I’m happy they’re dying.

Comments are closed.


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