Florida manatee boating deaths rise

- Save the Manatee | Submitted

Florida manatee deaths have reached 545 in 2019, 13 more than the five-year average of 532, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

At least 129 of the state’s official marine mammals were killed by watercraft collisions as of Dec. 13, five more than last year’s previous boating strike record of 124.

In addition, 74 died from natural causes, 72 perished just before or after birth, 53 died from cold stress, five died from entrapments in flood gates or canal locks, five from other human causes, 110 from undetermined causes and 97 were unrecovered with causes unknown.

In Manatee County, 17 manatee deaths were recorded, including seven listed as natural causes, five from watercraft, two perinatal deaths, two undetermined and one from cold stress.

The highest statewide death count in the past decade was in 2013, when 830 manatees died in Florida waters, followed by last year’s 824 deaths, with both spikes due to prolonged red tides.

Since 2017, manatees have been downlisted from “endangered” to the less serious “threatened” status by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

If you see a manatee in distress or a dead manatee, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922 (FWCC), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or text [email protected] Report the location of the animal, its signs of injury or distress, the nearest boat ramp and your contact information.