Reported manatee deaths in Florida waters stand at a shocking 841 since the start of 2021, per the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission's mortality numbers.
State of play: That accounts for about 10% of the estimated total population of 8,810 manatees.
The big picture: It shatters the all-time record for annual manatee deaths — set in 2013 with 830 casualties all year long — with five months still to come.
What's happening: Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group for innovative solutions to protect wildlife, says the unusual rate is the result of two conditions:
- Manatees headed for warm coastal waters early this winter due to cold.
- By the time they arrived, pollution and algal blooms had decimated seagrass beds, so they soon began to starve.
What they're saying: "This catastrophic die-off foreshadows the manatee’s future unless we take immediate and effective action," said Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife.
- "They’re starving to death. Ongoing water pollution has wiped out large areas of seagrass, a major food source. This situation cannot continue."
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