Manatee deaths in Florida drop to 606 in 2019

FWC data show 11 of the gentle giants died in the St. Johns River

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JACKSONVILLE, 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.

Experts say it appears the main cause of the decline in deaths is the reduced effect of red tide algae on manatees. Twenty-one manatees died of red tide in 2019, compared with 288 in 2018, said Jaclyn Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Florida Center for Biological Diversity.

Boats and other watercraft were the biggest cause of manatee deaths last year, causing at least 136 of the fatalities — or about 22% for the year. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data, 129 of the gentle giants were not recovered.

According to FWC data, 11 of the deaths were in Duval County -- four from watercraft and four from cold stress. There were four manatee deaths in St. Johns County last year, three in Putnam County, two in Nassau County and one in Clay County.

A cause of death hasn’t been determined in 119 cases. Broward and Miami-Dade counties saw fewer deaths, although manatee deaths increased slightly in Palm Beach County.

Nearly a quarter of the deaths came in Lee County, in Southwest Florida. Brevard County had the next highest number of manatee deaths.

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