The life of a manatee is not an easy one, especially over the past couple of years. Luckily, you can help ensure that these aquatic creatures get more protection, but first, we should discuss their plight.
During the first half of this year up until early July, at least 841 West Indian manatees perished according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which tops the previous high which was 830 manatee deaths in 2013. In 2020, a total of 637 manatees died.
These deaths are known as an “unusual mortality event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands an immediate response,” according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Most of the deaths from the year before and this year were due to a lack of seagrass. The deaths this year in the Indian River Lagoon happened in the colder months when the seagrass died off leaving the manatees without enough to eat.
Manatees don’t have a lot of body fat to keep warm, so need to relocate where the waters are warmer if temperatures get below around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). If they must choose, then Manatees will prioritize warmer waters over meals.
Other threats that manatees face are from human activities such as watercraft collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss, and illegal hunting.
According to the FWC, there are about 7,500 manatees. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the nonprofit group Save the Manatee estimate that the numbers are even lower, ranging from 5,733 to 6,300.
Saving the manatee.
Back in 2017, the FWS changed the status of the manatee from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Even though the downlisting was celebratory, as federal agencies emphasized that the increases in population and habitat improvements made the change possible, it also meant that benefit from fewer protections.
Now that manatee deaths are hitting record-breaking numbers, conservationists have to work to restore the manatees’ status as endangered. To push this cause, Free the Ocean has started a petition asking Martha Williams, the principal deputy director of the FWS, to put manatees back on the endangered species list.
To sign this petition and help save the manatees, click here.