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

Dr. Mark Brunswick (2R), Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, walks through the lab at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

Around the world, there have been several cases of people recovering from COVID-19 only to later test positive again and appear to have another infection.

Read More Show Less

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less
A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.

Read More Show Less