FWC asks state for $7 million as manatee deaths spike in Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s data shows the number of deaths is getting closer to 1,000

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The latest data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission shows 968 manatees have died this year in Florida and the majority have been in the Indian River Lagoon. 2021 shatters all previous annual records.

FWC officials asked the state this week for $7 Million to try to turn this trend around.

“It takes a lot of money and it takes more because the right amount of funding and attention wasn’t given to protecting the water quality leading to the algal blooms that shaded out the seagrass,” Dr. Patrick Rose with the Save the Manatees Club said.

Rose said that’s seagrass the manatees eat and now they are starving to death. His club is a non-profit organization that’s in a partnership with state and federal officials.

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“In terms of capacity to take care of manatees that need to be rescued we know that’s a great need,” he said.

The head of the FWC said the money requested from the state this week would help increase rescue and mortality response and rebuild seagrass beds and manatees’ habitat.

“That takes maybe a decade with a lot of work to restore that habitat,” Dr. Martine De Wit, a veterinarian with the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said.

De Wit said it’s now crunch time before winter hits.

“That’s the long part of the preparations for this coming winter. To increase capacity, bring more help in,” she said.

Officials are also looking into biologists feeding manatees this winter, which is currently illegal for anyone to do, but there’s a lot of questions surrounding it.

“To add that to an environment where these manatees are and how does that affect the rest of the habitat and will manatees even eat it,” she said.

If you see a distressed or sick manatee you’re asked to call the FWC’s hotline just by calling #FWC from a cell phone.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.