Florida reports record 1,101 manatee deaths in 2021

FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2010, file photo, a group of manatees are in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Normally giving food to wild animals is considered off limits, but the dire situation in Florida with more than 1,000 manatees dying from starvation due to manmade pollution is leading officials to consider an unprecedented feeding plan. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida reported 1,101 manatee deaths in 2021, marking the highest number of deaths on record in a single year.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released new numbers Wednesday documenting the deadly year manatees faced in the state.

In North Florida, the FWC reported 60 deaths, including 19 in Duval County, 16 in St. Johns County, 15 in Flagler County, four each in Putnam and Clay counties and two in Nassau County.

In Central Florida, the FWC reported 359 deaths in Brevard County, the most in the state.

Wildlife officials announced last month they would establish a temporary field response station at Florida Power and Light’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center in Brevard County, a popular place for manatees seeking warmer waters in the winter.

Officials hope the small-scale feeding trial will reduce manatee mortality and reduce the number of animals in need of rescue. FPL is also donating $700,000 over the next three years to help with manatee rescue and habitat restoration.

Starvation is at the root of the problem, especially in the Indian River Lagoon, where dying seagrass has left the manatees without enough to eat. Three conservation groups filed a formal notice in December 2021 of their intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it doesn’t take steps to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida.

If you see an ailing manatee, the state asks that you call and report it to 1-888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). Boaters are urged to abide by speed regulations, avoid motoring over shallow seagrass beds and to keep their powerboats at least 50 feet from any manatees they see.

To read the full report from FWC, click here.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.