Jul 12, 2021 - News

Florida's manatee deaths break annual record with months left in 2021

A manatee in the Chassahowitzka River near Crystal River. Photo: Getty Images

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:

  1. Manatees headed for warm coastal waters early this winter due to cold.
  2. 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."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more