Manatee deaths on the rise in Florida: Lack of seagrass could be to blame

FILE - This Dec. 28, 2010 photos shows a group of manatees in a canal where discharge from a...
FILE - This Dec. 28, 2010 photos shows a group of manatees in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Fewer manatees died in 2019 in Florida compared with the year before. Statewide, manatee deaths decreased to 606 deaths last year, down from 824 in 2018. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)(WCTV)
Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 11:09 AM CDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - More manatees have died this year in the state of Florida than all of last year. It’s looking more and more like a record will be broken. Some people have even been discovering dead manatees.

“To come out here and see a manatee, let alone a little baby, that was heartbreaking,” said Teresa Tyrrell, an account executive for ABC7.

Tyrrell and her dog came upon a dead baby manatee last week in her backyard, floating near her dock in the Braden River.

“At first it was kind of on its back, but I saw little bubbles coming up,” said Tyrrell. “I wasn’t sure if it was hurt or if it was still alive, so I immediately went down, saw the little bubbles coming out. “So I turned it over and saw that it had passed.”

The cause of that manatee’s death is unknown. This is a common story especially for the first few months of this year. 649 Florida manatees have died already in 2021. 637 had died all of last year.

Experts say a lack of seagrass is the problem and they are starving to death. They say algae blooms are causing a lot of the seagrass to disappear in some parts of the state.

“It’s really sad to see them actually starving to death,” said Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club. “I never thought as an aquatic biologist that we would come into this situation, that means problems including the environment.”

“Manatees are herbivores, so they only eat plants,” said Virginia Edmonds, director of animal care for Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. “They live in freshwater, saltwater, brackish water, so they eat plants in any of those environments and seagrass is one of those plants they do eat.”

Boating accidents and colder weather during the winter months are also to blame. The record for manatee deaths in a single year is 830. That was back in 2013.

Copyright 2021 WWSB. All rights reserved.

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