Florida manatees continue to die off, as protections can’t account for algae

So far, 2022 has been a rough year for manatees. Most years are for the marine mammals that just can’t seem to catch a break. This year, 541 manatees have been recorded as dead. According to a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than 60% of the deaths happening in Brevard County. The species, which is classified as threatened rather than endangered, has extensive federal and state protections to keep them safe and is protected by further legislation in place on a county level. But the die-offs continue all the same.

The mass deaths aren’t the result of boating or littering, two common hazards for the manatees, but of starvation. Water pollution results in algae blooms, which kill off the seagrass the manatees feed on. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been feeding them lettuce as a substitute, and they’re not expected to go extinct any time soon, but the current protections don’t seem to be enough to account for environmental factors. There are legislative measures in place that could remedy this, such as enforcement of the Clean Water Act and other state laws against water pollution, but it remains to be seen whether any government action is forthcoming.

Jose Alonso is currently majoring in digital journalism at Florida International University. Aside from journalism, he enjoys creative writing, literature, and history.