Manatee deaths rise in Florida as pollutants kill seagrass

Manatees have starved to loss of life by the lots of alongside Florida’s east coast as a result of algae blooms and contaminants are killing the seagrass the beloved sea mammals eat, a wildlife official informed a Home committee Tuesday.

Seagrass has been decimated within the 156-mile-long Indian River Lagoon and neighboring areas. The aquatic plant thrives in clear, sandy water, however murkier water due to the algae and pollution has made it tougher for seagrass to outlive, stated Melissa Tucker, director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fee.

“Our statewide loss of life depend from all sources has been larger than it is ever been reported earlier than,” Tucker informed the Home State Affairs Committee. “It is a hunger subject. There’s not sufficient seagrasses which might be obtainable to the manatees.”

Officers observed a pointy rise in manatee deaths from December via Might, when the ocean cows congregate in heat waters. Throughout that interval, 677 manatees died, when sometimes solely 156 die, Tucker stated.

Whereas manatee mortality leveled out after Might, when the mammals prolong their vary in summer season and fall, the state has recorded 968 manatee deaths in 2021, with greater than two months left within the 12 months. The earlier annual excessive was 830 deaths in 2013, Tucker stated.

Huge manatee die-offs in previous years have been attributed to extra transitory occasions like algae blooms and unusually chilly climate, however the seagrass drawback might take longer to reverse, Tucker stated. Efforts are being made to replant seagrass and restore clam and oyster beds so the mollusks can assist filter the water, she stated.

“That is one thing that we will be making an attempt to handle and enhance over the course of years and perhaps a long time,” she stated.

Republican State Rep. Thad Altman, who represents Brevard County, the place manatees sometimes thrive, stated will probably be tough to regrow the seagrass except the water will get cleared up. He stated the manatees at the moment are even consuming seagrass roots, completely killing the aquatic crops.

“We actually have a disaster on our palms,” Altman stated.

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