by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com
Florida’s manatees are dying in droves. So far this year, a total of 782 manatees died between January 1 and June 4, according to a recent report from the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That’s more than ten percent of the docile marine mammal’s entire Florida population, which has come back from near extinction, reports Johnny Diaz for the New York Times.
Last year, Florida lost 637 manatees, a total that 2021 has well surpassed barely halfway through the year. At this rate, 2021 will likely see the highest level of manatee mortality since 2018 when 824 individuals were recorded dead.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, tells Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post. “I think it’s fair to call it a crisis. It’s not hyperbole when you see hundreds of manatees dying like this.”
Experts say the likely cause of the die off is starvation. The bulbous, slow-moving mammals need to eat large quantities of seagrass to survive and that critical food source has been virtually erased by years of pollution. This pollution comes primarily in the form of nutrient runoff from fertilizer as well as leaks from sewers and septic tanks. Read More: