Quantcast

Florida Manatee: 10% of Population Could Be Wiped Out This Year

Animals
Mom and baby West Indian manatees in Three Sisters Springs, Florida. James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

2018 has not been a good year for Florida's iconic manatees. A total of 540 sea cows have died in the last eight months, surpassing last year's total of 538 deaths, according to figures posted Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The figure will likely climb higher before the year's end amid the state's ongoing toxic algae crisis. The red tide in the state's southwest is the known or suspected cause of death for 97 manatees as of Aug. 12, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission recently reported.


Combined with the winter cold spell, which claimed 69 manatees, more than 10 percent of the state's estimated manatee population of around 6,300 individuals could be wiped out this year, PEER noted.

The 540 reported deaths is also the second highest total in a decade. The deadliest year on record was 2013, when 830 Florida manatees perished. A third of those deaths were also linked to red tide.

PEER

Other threats to the gentle giants include blue-green algal blooms along Florida's east coast as well as boat strikes, which resulted in 75 manatee deaths, according to Save the Manatee Club.

"Florida's manatees have no defense against this ecological disaster," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a statement, noting that red tides and algal blooms poison both manatees and their food supplies. "Florida's steadily declining water quality is a death warrant for the manatee."

Red tide, which is caused by the Karenia brevis organism, is a natural phenomenon but some have blamed climate change for worsening the crisis, as well as mining and agricultural practices that can cause excess nutrients to flush into the waters.

In a press release Monday, PEER said it has documented a "precipitous decline in water pollution enforcement under Governor Rick Scott, as well as the massive amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients discharged daily both legally and illegally into Florida's waters."

"The increased duration, scale, and toxicity of red tide and algal bloom events should be an eco-wakeup call for Florida," Ruch added. "Governor Scott has declared a red tide emergency but the role his own environmental policies have played in spawning this crisis deserves examination."

Last year, the West Indian manatee was downlisted from "endangered" to "threatened" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Conservationists felt that the downgrade came too soon.

"We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees," Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, said in a statement then. "A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long-term survival. With the new federal administration threatening to cut 75 percent of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one."

Save the Manatee Club said that FWS "failed to adequately consider data from 2010 to 2016, during which time manatees suffered from unprecedented mortality events linked to habitat pollution, dependence on artificial warm water sources, and record deaths from watercraft strikes."

Florida's deadly red tide started nine months ago and has become the state's longest on record since 2006. Besides manatees, the outbreak has killed scores of marine life, including countless crabs, eels and fish, hundreds of endangered sea turtles, potentially a whale shark and 11 bottlenose dolphins.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jared Kaufman

Eating a better diet has been linked with lower levels of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But unfortunately 821 million people — about 1 in 9 worldwide — face hunger, and roughly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. World Health Organization. In addition, food insecurity is associated with even higher health care costs in the U.S., particularly among older people. To help direct worldwide focus toward solving these issues, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and undernutrition by 2030.

Read More Show Less
Healthline

Made from the freshly sprouted leaves of Triticum aestivum, wheatgrass is known for its nutrient-dense and powerful antioxidant properties.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less

mevans / E+ / Getty Images

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less

A powerful earthquake struck near Athens, Greece and shook the capital city for 15 seconds on Friday, causing people to run into the streets to escape the threat of falling buildings, NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. government scientists concluded in a new report that last month was the hottest June on record. Angelo Juan Ramos / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less
Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

By John R. Platt

For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.

Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.

Read More Show Less
Pixnio

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Many types of flour are commonly available on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Read More Show Less