Manatee deaths by watercraft rising at record pace in Florida

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Wildlife experts have blamed toxic red tide algae and a cold snap for the deadly 2018 experienced by manatees, but so far this year, boats are the primary cause.

From the beginning of this year through June 21, 81 manatees have been killed by watercraft in Florida’s waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. During the same time frame in 2018, watercraft caused the deaths of 59 manatees.

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

At that rate, the number of manatee deaths caused by watercraft could hit an all-time high this year, officials say.

The reason for the increase is likely a combination of factors, said Cora Berchem, research and multimedia specialist for the Save the Manatee Club, headquartered in Maitland.

Berchem said she believes one of the factors is manatees being downlisted from endangered to threatened, which may cause people to think it’s safe to exhibit less caution while operating watercraft.

“That’s not the case,” Berchem said by phone Monday. “If we have more manatees, we also have more to protect.”

A recovering economy also puts more people in the position to be able to go boating at their leisure, Berchem said.

This year a total of 300 manatees have been reported dead in Florida from Jan. 1 through June 21, according to the FWC.

In Volusia County, 16 manatee deaths have been reported, and at least eight of them were watercraft-related, per the FWC. In Flagler County, two manatee deaths were reported, but neither was caused by watercraft.

One of the victims is Dix, a frequent visitor to Blue Spring State Park, who was found dead in the St. Johns River on June 8, said Michael Watkins, park manager.

“She’s been coming here for a while,” Watkins said of Dix, who was first recorded in the manatee count in 2011.

There’s an increase in boating activity during the summer, and not all watercraft operators have experience navigating the area’s waters, Watkins said.

The impact of a boat’s hull and the slashing of propellers can injure or kill Florida’s official marine mammal, according to Save the Manatee Club.

Manatees, which swim very slowly, reside in shallow waters, Diana Ngai, club spokeswoman, said in a news release. Manatees are more susceptible to suffering injuries from a watercraft due to their need to surface for air.

This article was first published by Phys.org on 9 July 2019.


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Dorothy Faye Reynolds

Like boaters care….

Alison Moanique

if people cant have more respect for the manatees, TAKE THE PEOPLE OFF THE WATER. after all, it is the manatee’s home, not ours.

george mira

It strongly and clearly appears that motorized watercraft must be removed from waterways in which Manatees are present. The Endangered Species Act requires critical habitat, and these cutting motors cannot have preference of endangered species. It will not be enforced, though, and those elder and moronic shitheads who operate boats killing manatees (many years ago in florida, I saw a diver sliced by these boats. You would be aghast were the injury be seen by you in a human). Yet, there are seven and a half thousand MILLION humans, and a few hundred manatees on earth. When a mammal species… Read more »

Marilyn Ashman

God I Hate people that don’t give a damn about any Wildlife around them!!!. Wish they could be banished from the Planet!!!

Karin Andersson

Stop this, NOW!

Sara Leonard

So stop this! It’s not rocket science.

Cameron McElroy

Nooooooooo!

Arlene Labbe

Take those damn boats OFF the lake. These magnificent, ancient mammals are related to elephants. STOP the boats.

Arlene Steinberg
Arlene Steinberg

There’s little regard or respect for the poor elephants – look how they are being so heartlessly decimated 🙁
The poor manatees get even less regard.
Humans think they are the only species that matters.