Manatee Population Depends On Public Awareness

By Janice Nearing

This year, 2013 has become the deadliest year ever for Florida’s endangered manatees. In total, 769 manatees have died so far this year through October, making it the largest annual manatee die-off in Florida since record-keeping began.

According to Dr. Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Science and Conservation, two unusual mortality events in 2013 coupled with the regular threats manatees face on a daily basis, have been responsible for the unprecedented losses.  A record number of 276 manatees succumbed from exposure to a toxic red tide bloom in southwest Florida and an unusual mortality event claimed more than 100 manatee lives in Brevard County this year. “This year’s record-breaking manatee mortality is a loud and clear signal that our waterways are in trouble,” says Tripp, who explained that of the total number of manatee deaths so far this year, 123 were stillborn, newborn, or young calves less than five feet in length, which sets another annual record for this category of mortality.

Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the club said, “What we put into our waters, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers, together with how we use our waterways, all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species.  We must be better stewards of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe consequences going forward.”

Save the Manatee Club reminds the public that November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida, the time of year when manatees are on the move, making their way to important winter warm-water sites.

The club offers a variety of ways for the public in Florida to be directly involved with manatee protection during November and throughout the year. Free public awareness waterway signage, boating banners and decals, waterway cards and educational posters are produced by the club. The bright yellow waterproof banner which cautions “Please Slow: Manatees Below,” can assist in warning boaters to slow down for manatees who may be in the area. Shoreline property signs and matching boat decals are also available, featuring the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s hotline number (1-888-404-3922) for reporting sick and injured manatees. Boater and diver awareness posters are also available for dive shops, marinas, businesses, visitor centers, classrooms and libraries. Family-friendly outdoor signs are produced by the club and distributed to state, municipal and county parks; marinas; and other sites where human/manatee interactions can be a problem. For free info, e-mail educa tion@savethemanatee.org or 800-432- 5646.  For more information on endangered manatees, visit www.savethemanatee.org.