State Agencies Attacking Manatee Death Problem

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In 2021, so far there have been 1,038 manatee deaths in Florida waterways. That’s more than double the number from 2020. Three state agencies are trying something new to address the escalating manatee death issue.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in cooperation with Florida Power & Light, hope to address the drastic increase in manatee deaths by setting up a new command station.

The agencies recently approved the Unified Command establishing a Temporary Field Response Station at FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center in Brevard County. The Response Station will support several operations already underway in the central Indian River Lagoon, such as manatee rescues, carcass recovery, and limited field health assessments.

In approving the new station, additional staff was also approved to conduct a short-term feeding trial, referred to by many as supplemental feeding.

The goals of the feeding trial are: 1) to reduce manatee mortality and 2) to reduce the number of animals in need of rescue, allowing the limited space in permitted critical care facilities to remain open for animals needing rehabilitation for other reasons.

“We understand the importance of a timely response. Our agencies and Unified Command partners carefully considered all aspects of a short-term feeding trial,” said Shannon Estenoz, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “It is critical we help manatees in the short term with actions that are compatible with their long-term well-being and resilience.”

The Response Station is not a location for mobile veterinary care or rehabilitation.

The state says it expects relatively high mortality along Florida’s Atlantic Coast during the winter of 2021-22 due to chronic effects of starvation from the loss of seagrass associated with poor water quality within the Indian River Lagoon.

Because this trial effort is a management action that has not been tried before, the state does not know how many manatees will visit the site or how much vegetation individual manatees will consume. The state agencies say the goal of this action is to reduce manatee mortality but it will not eliminate it.

FPL is also contributing to other manatee response operations by working with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to obtain an additional FWC rescue truck and provide on the ground assistance.

“Environmental stewardship is a critical aspect of FPL’s continued efforts to deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy to its customers,” said Kate MacGregor, FPL vice president of environmental services. “For over 30 years, we have worked closely with state and federal agencies to ensure manatees are protected and we stand ready to support FWC and USFWS in their ongoing conservation efforts for this important species.”
People can help manatee conservation by reporting injured, distressed, or dead manatees to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information on the Atlantic Mortality event visit MyFWC.com/Manatee and click on “Learn More” at the top of the page.

 

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