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

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

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Colorful, fresh organic vegetables. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

A New Diet for the Planet

By Tim Radford

An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, whole grains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor's orders, tomorrow's farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Children's books about the environment. U.S. Air Force photo / Karen Abeyasekere

This State Might Require Public Schools to Teach Climate Change

Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and climate science. That doesn't have the same ring as the "three Rs" of education, but Connecticut could one day require the subject to be on the curriculum, The Associated Press reported.

A Connecticut state lawmaker is pushing a bill to mandate the teaching of climate change in public schools throughout the state, starting in elementary school.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
NASA's ICESCAPE mission investigates the changing conditions in the Arctic. NASA / Kathryn Hansen

These Eye-Opening Memes Show the Real 10-Year Challenge

Before-and-after photos of your friends have probably taken over your Facebook and Instagram feeds, but environmentalists are using the #10YearChallenge to insert a dose of truth.

Memes of shrinking glaciers, emaciated polar bears and coral bleaching certainly subvert the feel-good viral sensation, but these jarring images really show our planet in a worrying state of flux.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Vial containing swab from a deceased duck, collected for testing during the 2014-2015 avian influenza outbreak. © 2015 Erica Cirino, used with permission.

Could Trump’s Government Shutdown Cause Outbreaks of Wildlife Disease?

By Erica Cirino

The current U.S. government shutdown could worsen ongoing wildlife disease outbreaks or even delay responses to new epidemics, according to federal insiders and outside experts who work with federal wildlife employees.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Vegan raw cheese from cashew nuts. byheaven/ iStock / Getty Images

Vegan Cheese: What’s the Best Dairy-Free Option?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Cheese is one of the most beloved dairy products across the globe. In the U.S. alone, each person consumes more than 38 pounds (17 kg) of cheese per year, on average (1).

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Sun setting behind the Fawley Oil Refinery in Fawley, England. Clive G' / CC BY-ND 2.0

Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is 'Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe'

By Jessica Corbett

Ahead of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week—which convenes the world's wealthiest and most powerful for a summit that's been called both the "money Oscars" and a "threat to democracy"—the group published a report declaring, "Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Robusta coffee beans growing on a tree. Dag Sundberg / Getty Images

60% of Wild Coffee Species at Risk for Extinction

If humans don't wake up now to the threats posed by climate change and habitat loss, we may be in for a permanently sleepy future. A study led by scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew found that 60 percent of wild coffee species are at risk for extinction.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Andrew Wheeler testifies Wednesday at a Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to officially head the EPA. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Acting EPA Head Wheeler Downplays Climate Crisis at Confirmation Hearing

Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler downplayed the threat of climate change and defended his deregulatory record at the first Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to officially run the agency Wednesday. It was a hearing that some activists and Democrats did not even think should take place, given that business as usual at the EPA has been hampered by the ongoing government shutdown.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!