CAST YOUR VOTE IN THE BEST OF ORLANDO READERS POLL

Monday, June 29, 2020

Florida manatee deaths are way up this year, and experts point to COVID-19 as a factor

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 2:27 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA ADOBE STOCK
  • Photo via Adobe Stock

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the phrase “nature is healing” has been a common and often false signal that animals are somehow making a comeback, and one species that’s apparently worse off is the Florida manatee.

According to public mortality records from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, manatee deaths have risen by 20 percent from April to May compared to last year. While natural causes are often the leading source of death for manatees, as well as things like cold stress, and perinatal death, another major contributor is boat impacts, and environmentalists say COVID-19 has caused a significant increase in these numbers.

“There are several troubling factors coming together during the pandemic,” said Save the Manatee Club’s Patrick Rose to The Guardian.

“Manatees were already facing accelerated habitat loss, rising fatalities from boat collisions and less regulatory protection. With Covid, we’re seeing manatees at an increased risk, both from policies that undermine environmental standards and from irresponsible outdoor activity, such as boaters ignoring slow-speed zones.”

Rose and others also argue that Florida has witnessed a massive spike in boater traffic since waterways reopened, as well as everything that comes with it: reckless behavior, destroyed grass beds, and trash. Because of COVID-19, there’s also been a decrease in guided, supervised tours, which can often help regulate and monitor fragile manatee areas.

Florida has witnessed 329 manatee deaths so far this year, and it's believed that at least 30 are related to watercraft collisions. For comparison's sake, Florida recorded 606 manatee deaths in 2019, and 136 were believed to be boat-related.

But experts believe this year's boat-related manatee deaths may be a lot worse than what’s known.

Due to necropsy restrictions during COVID-19, many of these manatee deaths on the FWC site have yet to be labeled with an exact cause of death.

“We suspect there were many more manatees killed by boating than we could determine,” said Rose to the publication.

So far, 54 manatees have died in Tampa Bay this year, says the FWC. By county, 8 manatees deaths have been recorded in Pinellas, 14 in Hillsborough, 15 in Manatee, 7 in Sarasota, and 10 in Citrus.

Florida’s manatee population has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and because of this population boom, the Department of the Interior reclassified them from endangered to threatened in 2017, citing habit improvements. But deaths have also jumped. 2019 was the worst year on record for Florida manatee deaths, and it looks like we may break another record this year.

_
Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 15, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation