In a recent survey from The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, results suggests that overall manatee numbers are higher than previously thought.
The survey shows that there are now roughly 7,500 to 10,300 manatees swimming in the Sunshine State’s waters, a significant increase from the previous estimate of 6,000 manatees.
Researchers believe that the higher numbers are a result of conservation measures implemented by FWC and wildlife officials that have allowed manatee populations to recover.
Although these numbers are very encouraging, wildlife officials have document 779 manatee deaths this year so far, compared to 538 in 2017..
The cause of the deaths are being blamed on a winter cold snap, an extreme red tide that has stuck around much longer than usual, agricultural run-off and collisions with boats.
Since 1974, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have kept records on manatee mortality. Almost one-third of all known manatee deaths are caused by human factors, and most human-related deaths are due to watercraft collisions. Since 1974 over 1700 manatee deaths have been attributed to watercraft collisions. Up to eighty-five percent of all manatees that have been identified in Florida are recognized by their scar patterns.
Aside from watercraft collisions, the largest amount of human-related mortality is due to entrapment in floodgates and canal locks. Since 1974, 199 manatees have become entrapped in these gates and died (Florida Fish and Wildlife Institute)
Manatees are Florida’s official state marine mammal and are listed as endangered at the international level by the IUCN World Conservation Union.
With increased awareness, education, regulations, and enforcement, manatee deaths caused by humans could be substantially reduced, and the eventual recovery of the species could be realized.
The FWCC is in the process of developing a management plan for the species’ recovery and has committed to forming a plan that will not weaken manatee protection. For more information you can visit their web site or go to the Save the Manatee Club web site at www.savethemanatee.org.