Boats Are Killing Manatees in Record Numbers

Manatee advocates are raising concerns about the number of these gentle giants who have been killed in Florida this year. They hope that increased vigilance and other measures will help keep this from being the worst year on record.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has already counted 71 manatees killed by boats as of July 22. The numbers are already higher than they were for the same period in 2009, which was the deadliest year on record with a total of 97 deaths.

The growing death toll has caused manatee advocates to worry that the unfortunate record will be broken this year, but there are differing opinions as to why.

The Save the Manatee Club attributes the rising number of deaths to factors including cheaper fuel, a recovering economy, a mild winter, and a hot summer, which combined means there has been a lot of boating in Florida.

Jim Kalvin, president of the boater advocacy group Standing Watch told Florida Today he believes the problem is partly because manatees have reached their “carrying capacity, but manatee advocates and the FWC disputed that claim.

Carli Segelson, spokesperson for the FWC, told TakePart, “We have found no conclusive evidence of manatees reaching carrying capacity.”

There are now estimated to be just over 6,000 manatees in Florida, which is a significant rise since they were first protected as an endangered species decades ago, but their future is still uncertain.

Now, while boat strikes are causing major problems, they still also continue to face a host of other threats that include pollution, entanglement, disease and habitat loss and harassment from tourists, in addition to environmental issues including cold weather, red tide and algal blooms.

Save the Manatee Club points out that another 150 of them are already believed to have died this year as a result of algal blooms that have caused a loss of seagrass, their main food source, and the problem is expected to get worse.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering downgrading them from endangered to threatened, and while the agency says many protections will stay in place, manatee advocates believe the move is being made prematurely and manatees clearly still need every bit of protection we can give them.

Hopefully the latest numbers will help inspire people be vigilant on the water and consider the precious lives of these manatees. While we wait for an official decision about their potential change in status, Save the Manatee Club is also encouraging people to speak up for manatees, and other wildlife, by supporting efforts that will keep Florida’s marine environments healthy. In the end, those efforts will benefit us too.

For more info on how to help manatees, check out Save the Manatee Club.

Photo credit: David Hinkel/USFWS

114 comments

John B
John B6 months ago

Thanks Alicia for sharing the disturbing info.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer Habout a year ago

“We have found no conclusive evidence of manatees reaching carrying capacity.” "Carrying capacity" Really? "Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering downgrading them from endangered to threatened". This is typical for the dis-Service. An animal makes a minor comeback and they dump it. Obviously, they are making more money on boating fees and licenses than a manatee's life is worth. Stronger protections against the boats are needed. Not protections for the fruitloop Kalvin and his boat. Don't trust the dis-Service.

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Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn Oabout a year ago

Oh, how lucky you are Debra T. to be able to watch these beautiful animals swim freely. I can and do share your heartbreak for those injured and killed. Until much heavier fines and restrictions are in place these jet skiers and boat people won't care. Hit the hip pocket hugely!

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiranabout a year ago

so sad, i love these guys.

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Debra Tate
Debra Tateabout a year ago

I live in Florida and have a Manatee viewing center less than 5 miles from home. I love going and watching them. It breaks my heart every time I hear of on injured or kill by boats. These gentle giants are awesome! Thank you! Also signed petition.

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Fred L.
Fred Labout a year ago

"Jim Kalvin, president of the boater advocacy group Standing Watch told Florida Today he believes the problem is partly because manatees have reached their “carrying capacity..." WTF is he talking about? It's humans who have far exceeded their carrying capacity. Privileged, self-entitled jerks on boats and jet skis who don't give a shit about anything but their self gratification. SMH.

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Muff-Anne York-Haley
Muff-Anne York-Haleyabout a year ago

So sad, such beautiful creatures!

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Patricia H.
Patricia Harrisabout a year ago

Molly D., of course something can be done for these animals! Anyone who says otherwise, is just making up excuses not to do anything about it.

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Molly D.
M. Cabout a year ago

You mean nothing can be done to help these animals ? There laws need to be changed.

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