VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – More manatees have died in 2021 than all of last year and the majority of the deaths are in Central Florida.
Manatees are now moving from the locations where the animals stay warm for the winter, but with food scarce, not all are surviving.
“They’re weak. Some didn’t even get all the way to where they needed to get food before they died,” Biologist and Executive Director of the Save the Manatees club out of Maitland Patrick Rose said.
The nonprofit said 76 manatees have been rescued this year.
“The big question is how fit are they going to be going into next winter and we have to have contingency plans to take care of them,” Rose said.
Since the beginning of 2021, 649 manatees have died in Florida. Compared to 637 in all of 2020.
Over 40 percent of the deaths have been in the Indian River Lagoon stretch in Brevard County.
“The amount of seagrass left in the northern Indian River Lagoon is really coming back more and more disappointing,” Rose said.
Rose said nutrient pollution runoff from products, like fertilizer, fed algae blooms and killed the seagrass the manatees eat.
“Very little seagrass could survive. That’s going to take years and years. Probably up to eight years before everything goes right,” he said.
Rose said in the meantime his organization is working with others across the state to hurry that growing up.
“We got to look at maybe replanting in some of the creeks and rivers freshwater vegetation that wasn’t quite as subject to the problems there,” he said.
He asks anyone who sees a sick manatee to call Florida Fish and Wildlife at 1-888-404-3922. You can donate to manatee research and rescues here.