More Florida manatees have died in first half of 2021 than any other year in state’s history

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The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 841 manatee deaths were recorded from Jan. 1 through July 2. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

STUART, Fla. (WFLA/AP) – More manatees have already died in 2021 than in any other year in Florida’s recorded history, primarily from starvation due to the loss of seagrass beds.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 841 manatee deaths were recorded from Jan. 1 through July 2. According to its report, 87 manatee deaths have been reported in the Tampa Bay Area alone.

Some biologists believe water pollution is killing the seagrass beds in the area. But boat strikes were also responsible for at least 63 deaths.

2021’s numbers, meanwhile, have already broken the previous record of 830 manatees that died in 2013 because of an outbreak of toxic red tide. More than half the deaths have died in the Indian River Lagoon and its surrounding areas in Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.

Manatees are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. There are estimated to be around 6,300 in the waters around Florida, per the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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