The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have reported that, “There have been more than 750 manatee deaths in Florida since January 2021.”
Greetings to you! In this blog, I continue talking about how Florida is on track to set a new sobering record for manatee deaths this year. There have been more than 750 manatee deaths in Florida since January 1st of this year. Scientists said that this “… is the most deaths ever recorded in a five-month period.” Ground zero for these marine mammal deaths is located in Indian River Lagoon. Why? Because seagrass, the main food source for the manatee, is experiencing a “large die-off.” As a result, manatees are left without enough to eat.
Let me give you some important manatee facts …
- Manatees are warm-blooded and need water temperatures of at least 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, they are tropical and enjoy Florida and Caribbean waters.
- Manatees are herbivores (plant-eating) and need to eat at least 10% of their bodyweight daily to survive. The average Florida manatee weighs about 1,000 pounds. As a result, each manatee needs to eat about 100 pounds of plants per day!
- Seagrass is the manatee’s main diet source.
- Despite their big and bulky size, manatees have very little body fat!
- Manatees are marine mammals, meaning they live in the water and breathe air.
- Manatees need to surface for air every 5 minutes and during sleep, they naturally surface for air every 20 minutes.
Why is Indian River Lagoon So Deadly for the Manatee?
Actually, Indian River Lagoon is not a river at all. Rather, it is a huge estuary bounded by several barrier islands, which are located on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The area of the lagoon extends more than, “150 miles from Cape Canaveral to Stuart, Florida. For years there have been concerns about declining water quality in the lagoon, caused by a number of factors including development, septic systems, storm water runoff and warming temperatures from climate change.”
Ryan Brushwood, a local biologist who’s employed at a seagrass facility explained, “Those problems culminated in 2011 when an algae super bloom covered more than 130 thousand acres of the lagoon’s water, blocking the sunlight and causing a massive die-off of seagrass. In hindsight, it probably was the tipping point. The lagoon saw algae blooms earlier this year in January. When those blooms were really bad, you couldn’t see your hand below the surface. There wasn’t a lot of light getting to the plants.”
Chuck Jacoby, a local environmental scientist said, “Over a 10-year period there’s been a decrease of about 46,000 acres. That’s a 58% decline.”
John Peterson, head of rescue operations at SeaWorld in Orlando said, “It’s really eye-awakening when you watch what’s going on. You have animals that are out there floating high to what you would think it’s a punctured lung from a boat strike. What it’s turning out to be is a starvation event. You’re talking an animal that’s down … 400, 500 pounds. It will take us three to five months to put that weight back up there to get them to a point where we can release them. The entire population of manatees in Florida is estimated at no more than 6,800. When you’re talking about a population like that and you have a loss of 700 in the first quarter of the year, it’s a very thing right now.”
Michael Walsh, associate professor at the University of Florida specializing in aquatic animal health said, “We have a compromised system that the animals have to utilize and stay in, but the food is not there in the same amount it used to be.”
Currently manatees are listed as a “threatened” species. However climate change, which causes warmer waters and increased algae blooms, will increase seagrass die-off unless major intervention occurs.
Help children learn more about climate change and manatees by reading the award-winning Kobee Manatee® Educational Picture Book series! There’s a new fourth installment of the series coming out in September 2021. It’s titled, Kobee Manatee® Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard. This [Book 4] of the series teaches children all about climate change and plastic pollution with Dr. Tracy Fanara.
Kobee Manatee® Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard, will be released in September 2021!
Keep watching for more of my updates on the Florida manatee and climate change!
If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC). They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee