As bad as this year has been for manatees, it could get worse.
The big picture: Some 900 manatees have died in state waters since Jan. 1, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, making 2021 the deadliest year for the gentle giants in history.
- Already. With five months left.
Driving the news: The cause of this die-off — starvation — differs from others that are temporary, like cold snaps or red tide. You can’t easily fix vastly depleted seagrass beds, FWC officials said at a meeting in Bonita Springs.
- "This one we’re uncertain how long the impact is going to be," FWC Director Gil McRae said, per the Tampa Bay Times. "But we know this forage is not going to come back overnight, or even in a few years."
- The pace of death appears to have tapered off as manatees have left their depleted winter feeding grounds for other waters, but they’ll return.
State of play: The state is working with aquariums to rescue emaciated cows and orphaned calves. An unusually high number of calves have landed in four critical care facilities, the Times reports.
- The FWC plans to be aggressive about water quality improvements in the Indian River Lagoon, where much of the die-off occurred.
- And they’re thinking of ways to supplement the manatees’ diets through winter.
Yes, but: Manual feeding would require tons of food spread over hundreds of acres up and down the coast every day, per the Fort Myers News-Press.
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