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Wildlife Commissioners Eye Record Manatee Deaths

A Florida manatee cow and calf.
Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A Florida manatee cow and calf.

Manatee deaths in the Indian River Lagoon will be discussed next month by members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but no action is expected.

The commission is slated to discuss manatee mortality on Aug. 4, the first day of a two-day meeting in Bonita Springs. A record number of manatees have died along Florida’s Atlantic coast since December, particularly in the Indian River Lagoon where water-quality problems have caused significant losses of seagrass, according to a commission staff memo tied to the meeting.

“Over the past decade, the Indian River Lagoon has experienced significant water quality degradation, leading to the repeated occurrence of harmful algal blooms and widespread loss of seagrass, the preferred food for manatees,” the memo said.

The memo said 676 manatee carcasses had been found in the region since Dec. 1, with more than half in Brevard County. A separate commission report released July 9 said more than 841 manatee deaths had been reported in the state since the start of 2021, about 10% of the estimated population of manatees in Florida. The number of deaths had already surpassed the prior one-year record of 830 in 2013. The state budget for the current fiscal year includes $8 million for manatee habitat restoration efforts.

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