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Florida manatees are having a better year, but their outlook remains grave

Manatees swimming in the water
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
A group of manatees are pictured in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Dec. 28, 2010. Fewer manatee deaths have been recorded so far this year in Florida compared to the record-setting numbers in 2021 but wildlife officials cautioned, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, that chronic starvation remains a dire and ongoing threat to the marine mammals.

There have not been as many Florida manatees dying this year.  

There have not been as many Florida manatees dying this year.  

But the iconic sea cows remain in trouble.

Manatee deaths are down some 26 percent compared with the end of June last year. Wildlife officials say that’s because of a milder winter and possibly a smaller population.

But Martine deWit of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the animals continue to suffer from severe malnutrition and then starvation.   

“It’s going to have chronic health effects and reproductive effects, and it’s going to be years before you can measure the real extent of what is happening right now.” 

The main problem lies in the Indian River Lagoon, where widespread pollution has led to seagrass losses, leaving the animals without their main source of food. 

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Amy Green