From: Alicia Graef, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published August 8, 2016 07:04 AM

Boats Are Killing Manatees in Record Numbers

Manatee advocates are raising concerns about the number of these gentle giants who have been killed in Florida this year. They hope that increased vigilance and other measures will help keep this from being the worst year on record.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has already counted 71 manatees killed by boats as of July 22. The numbers are already higher than they were for the same period in 2009, which was the deadliest year on record with a total of 97 deaths.

The growing death toll has caused manatee advocates to worry that the unfortunate record will be broken this year, but there are differing opinions as to why.

The Save the Manatee Club attributes the rising number of deaths to factors including cheaper fuel, a recovering economy, a mild winter, and a hot summer, which combined means there has been a lot of boating in Florida.

Jim Kalvin, president of the boater advocacy group Standing Watch told Florida Today he believes the problem is partly because manatees have reached their “carrying capacity, but manatee advocates and the FWC disputed that claim.

Carli Segelson, spokesperson for the FWC, told TakePart, “We have found no conclusive evidence of manatees reaching carrying capacity.”

There are now estimated to be just over 6,000 manatees in Florida, which is a significant rise since they were first protected as an endangered species decades ago, but their future is still uncertain.

Now, while boat strikes are causing major problems, they still also continue to face a host of other threats that include pollution, entanglement, disease and habitat loss and harassment from tourists, in addition to environmental issues including cold weather, red tide and algal blooms.

Save the Manatee Club points out that another 150 of them are already believed to have died this year as a result of algal blooms that have caused a loss of seagrass, their main food source, and the problem is expected to get worse.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering downgradingthem from endangered to threatened, and while the agency says many protections will stay in place, manatee advocates believe the move is being made prematurely and manatees clearly still need every bit of protection we can give them.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.

Photo credit: David Hinkel/USFWS

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