The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) counted 6,131 manatees in Florida waters in surveys this winter, down 489 from the record 6,620 manatees counted last year.
From the air, observers counted 3,731 manatees on the east coast and 2,400 on the west coast.
From January to April this year, 307 of the marine mammals died in state waters, including seven in Manatee County, according to the FWC.
In all of 2017, 538 manatees died in Florida, 20 of them in Manatee County.
The one-day surveys that began in 1991 have expanded in recent years to three or four days, and are conducted annually in cold weather when manatees are clustered in warm-water sites, making them easier to find, according to the FWC. The surveys cover all the known wintering habitats of manatees in Florida and provide researchers with a count of manatees visible in Florida waters during the several days of the survey.
Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Manatees were downlisted in 2017 from “endangered” to the less serious “threatened” status by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To help keep manatees safe:
- Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.
- If you observe a manatee mating herd – several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female – watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
- Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.
- Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).