Florida manatees are dying

FLORIDA MANATEES are dying at a shocking rate that threatens their population size, and if unresolved may put them back on the endangered species list. Photo Courtesy EcoWatch

Grace Parry | Writer

March 22, 2021

Last year, 619 manatees died in Florida. Within the first three months of 2021, there are already 431 dead. 

While originally attributed to the unusually cold water temperatures, this now seems to be only a small factor in a much larger picture.

MASSIVE ALGAL GROWTH in the Indian River Lagoon is killing native seagrasses. The News-Press

The cold did push many manatees out of their usual feeding grounds, but the real problem is pollution in the warmer waters, specifically the Indian River Lagoon. As it is currently one of the warmest areas manatees are able to reach, they are flocking there; unfortunately, this area is heavily polluted by chemicals, fertilizers, and septic tank runoff which encourages the growth of algae instead of the native seagrasses the manatees feed on. 

“When the algae grows it stops sunlight from reaching the native sea plants as well as taking up much of the oxygen in the water, causing many plants and animals that rely on it to start dying,” junior Maxwell Silva said.

Seeing that The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the world and many of the species that live there are endangered, it is very important for it to be a clean and safe environment to promote the wellbeing of these species.

Ever since 2016, there has been a large movement to prevent this with many who live in the area replacing their septic tanks and monitoring their use of harmful chemicals and fertilizers. They have also submitted to a $300 million tax that will serve to clean up the area, having already started planting mangroves and oyster gardens which both filter the water and are native to Florida, preventing invasive species from taking over the area and worsening the situation.

Unfortunately, as more people move to this area, boat strikes become more common as well, and 17 manatees have been killed from this already this year. Along with this, more manatees have died this year than they have since 2016, the year they started to protect the Lagoon and its inhabitants, and this massive algal bloom has been happening in the few past years as well. Hopefully, a solution is reached soon or the manatee may become an endangered species once again.

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