Thursday, 25 July 2019

Manatee deaths by watercraft rising at record pace in Florida

JULY 9, 2019

by Katie Kustura
Wildlife experts have blamed toxic red tide algae and a cold snap for the deadly 2018 experienced by manatees, but so far this year, boats are the primary cause.
From the beginning of this year through June 21, 81 manatees have been killed by watercraft in Florida's waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. During the same time frame in 2018, watercraft caused the deaths of 59 manatees.
At that rate, the number of manatee deaths caused by watercraft could hit an all-time high this year, officials say.
The reason for the increase is likely a combination of factors, said Cora Berchem, research and multimedia specialist for the Save the Manatee Club, headquartered in Maitland.
Berchem said she believes one of the factors is manatees being downlisted from endangered to threatened, which may cause people to think it's safe to exhibit less caution while operating watercraft.
"That's not the case," Berchem said by phone Monday. "If we have more manatees, we also have more to protect."
A recovering economy also puts more people in the position to be able to go boating at their leisure, Berchem said.
This year a total of 300 manatees have been reported dead in Florida from Jan. 1 through June 21, according to the FWC.

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