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Water crisis has impact on Florida manatees

Posted at 10:49 AM, Oct 25, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's believed that there are more than 6,000 manatees in Florida. But, 2018 hasn't been a good year for the mammal.

Red tide has contributed to or is suspected in the deaths of nearly 190 manatees so far this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

At the Manatee Lagoon at the FPL Power Plant in West Palm Beach, Susy Narey had the same reaction as most of us after spotting a manatee.

“Being happy and free. Nice seeing them out in the wild,” said Narey.

Certainly, manatees are something many cherish here in Florida; the problem is, it’s been a very tough year for the marine mammal in Florida waters which have turned deadly for dozens and dozens of manatees.

Videos of dead manatees have emerged on the west coast and red tide is being blamed for their deaths. 

Videos have also surfaced on the east coast showing manatees swimming among blue-green algae.

So far, FWC is reporting more than 700 manatee deaths in Florida this year. That’s nearly 200 more than all of 2017.

“The way manatees are doing in our environment population-wise really gives us an indicator of how our environment is doing as a whole,” said Benji Studt with Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resources Management.

“Manatees really need our help to bounce back from 2018,” said Studt.

He also wants to raise awareness about boat strikes on manatees. So far several manatees have died just in Palm Beach County from boat strikes this year.

He has a reminder for boaters.

"So important to make sure that when you're going out on the water or if your friends are going out on the water, that they educate themselves about manatees and about how to recognize them on the water," said Studt. "Obey the speed zones."

He says this should raise awareness for boaters and also for our water quality. He points towards loss of seagrass and habitat in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.

“These guys eat seagrass. They eat shoreline vegetation. All of that depends on good water quality,” said Studt.

When manatees recover, so does our paradise. 

On November 3rd, county leaders are going to be celebrating the Lake Worth Lagoon with Lagoon Fest.

FWC will be there to educate guests about manatees.