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Friday, July 12, 2024

Florida. Manatees are dying at an alarming rate

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Florida’s Caribbean manatee population may have declined by up to 1,000 last year. According to scientists, the reasons for such a rapid death of animals lie primarily in the lack of access to food and pollution flowing into the water. To stop this process, it is necessary to restore their natural habitats to good condition.

Caribbean manatees (Trichechus manatus) are mammals that inhabit the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from the southern coast of the United States to Brazil. One of the largest populations of this species favors the waters around central and northern Florida. However, in 2022, scientists observed a disturbingly high number of deaths among animals from Florida, and this trend may continue in the years to come.

Hunger threatens hundreds of animals

According to estimates from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), about 800 manatees died in the state in 2022 – only the record year 2021 was more tragic in this regard. In fact, this value may be even greater. In an interview with Reuters, James Powell of Clearwater Marine Aquarium said that up to 1,000 individuals may have died last year.

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The main cause of so many deaths is the shortage of seagrass, which is the main source of food for manatees. In the northwestern part of Florida, “sea meadows” are disappearing as agricultural and urban pollution seeps into the waters. The species is also sensitive to toxic red algae blooms, and because of their relatively slow movements, they collide with boats and ships relatively often.

“I think what we’re seeing now is a wake-up call,” Powell said. – Thousands of manatees come to one place looking for a buffet, but it’s not there. So animals die of starvation and other health problems related to malnutrition.

There are many dangers for the Florida manateeReuters

The key is to restore ecosystems

To help the manatee population survive the harsh winter conditions, Florida authorities launched a feeding program in December. However, scientists emphasize that the most effective way to reduce mortality among these marine mammals is to restore their natural habitats and restore seagrass in key places for the species, for example in the area of ​​the manatee sanctuary in Crystal River.

‘One of our most important projects is on Crystal River,’ explained Jessica Mailliez of Sea and Shoreline, an aquatic restoration organization. “So far, we have planted about 32 hectares of seagrass, and their range has expanded to over 100 hectares,” he adds.

There are many dangers for the Florida manateeReuters

Endangered Florida manateesReuters

Reuters, Marine Mammal Commission, Axios Tampa Bay

Main photo source: Reuters

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