Manatee Mortality Event Along The East Coast: 2020-ongoing
The FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) continue to investigate a high level of manatee mortalities and respond to manatee rescues along the Atlantic coast of Florida. Responding to live manatees in need of rescue is a top priority for wildlife agencies and partners from the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. FWC manatee biologists are working hard to respond to public reports of distressed manatees and rescue manatees that need assistance (preliminary rescue summaries). The FWC and FWS take manatee conservation seriously by actively implementing science-based conservation measures that are making a difference for manatees and habitat.
The Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events confirmed these manatee mortalities met the criteria as an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) and FWS subsequently issued an UME declaration. Moving forward, FWC and FWS continue to coordinate closely with our partners, participate in the investigative team, and conduct analyses related to the cause of the UME. Working with these partners, FWC and FWS staff are exploring both short- and long-term and small- and large-scale response options, including aquatic habitat restoration.
Environmental conditions in portions of the Indian River Lagoon remain a concern. Researchers attributed this UME to starvation due to the lack of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. In recent years, poor water quality in the Lagoon led to harmful algal blooms and widespread seagrass loss.
As water temperatures warm, manatees naturally disperse from their winter habitats, traveling to other areas of the state and beyond. This dispersal should lead manatees to better habitats. The FWC will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with our partners.
Ways you can help manatees:
- Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert toll-free number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or text 847411 with keyword “FWC,” followed by the city and/or county and any information if you see a sick, injured, dead or tagged manatee.
- Boaters will find them easier to spot if they wear polarized sunglasses and keep a lookout for signs of manatees such as the circular “footprints” they trace on the top of the water or their snouts sticking up out the water.
- Look, but don’t touch manatees. Keep your distance when boating, even if you are steering a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Be a good role model for others so that they learn how to watch and enjoy manatees without disturbing the animals.
- The plate you buy matters; support FWC manatee rescues and research. Next time you renew your tag, consider a “Save the Manatee” license plate!
- Show your support for manatee conservation by proudly displaying a manatee decal. These high-quality stickers feature original artwork and are available from your local Tax Collector’s office with a $5 donation.
- The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida offers another way to support.