Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

2013 Deadliest Year On Record for Manatees

Reported deaths of Florida manatees during 2013 have reached a record high, more than doubling last year’s total, according to state figures posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A major factor driving this dramatic rise is the enormous toll from red tides, which accounted for a third of all the deaths and far more than in any year on record.

Reported deaths in 2013 removes nearly 17 percent of the total manatee population. Photo credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service / Flickr

Preliminary figures from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission indicate that 829 manatee perished in 2013, with full results for December not yet tabulated. This total is more than double last year’s loss of 392 sea cows and eclipses the previous record of 766 back in 2010 when a severe cold spell caused mortality to spike. This week’s sudden cold snap could start 2014 with even more manatee deaths.

Altogether, the 2013 toll removes nearly 17 percent of the total manatee population. Distressingly, these losses include 126 calves. Manatees are classified as an endangered species under both federal and Florida law.

One major factor driving the sharp 2013 rise was manatee deaths attributed to toxic red tide events caused by algal blooms. There were 276 red tide-related manatee deaths in 2013, almost as many as for the previous eight years combined and more than 60 percent above the previous record for red tide-related deaths of 151 back in 1996.

While algal blooms are a natural and seasonal occurrence, they are exacerbated by pollution, especially nutrient loading, such as from agricultural and human wastes. Coastal water pollution is on the increase in Florida which when combined with rising sea water temperatures create ideal conditions for red tides.

“This hike in manatee mortality seems to be the product of systemic environmental irresponsibility,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former water quality enforcement attorney for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), pointing out that the state has been vigorously resisting tougher water pollution standards while eviscerating the DEP. “Basic permit regulation for waste-water discharges and enforcement against water pollution violations have completely broken down in the State of Florida.”

Manatees may not be the only marine wildlife bearing the brunt of diminished water quality. More than 115 manatees died this year from an as yet undiagnosed illness in Indian River Lagoon, a major manatee haven. The disease also appears to be killing dolphins, pelicans and other wildlife in the Atlantic-facing inlet.

“Manatees appear to be dying in a perfect storm of human neglect,” Phillips added, noting that boating-related manatee deaths actually fell in 2013. “If the quality of Florida’s coastal waters continues its downward spiral, there will not only be fewer manatees but a lot fewer tourists no matter how cold it gets up North.”

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and WATER pages for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less
Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less
A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less