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Florida Manatees Are Ravenous En Masse. Conservation Teams Need Them Again on Endangered Record

A manatee swims among seagrass in the Homosassa River on October 05, 2021 in Homosassa, Florida.

A manatee swims amongst seagrass within the Homosassa River on October 05, 2021 in Homosassa, Florida.
Picture: Joe Raedle (Getty Photos)

Environmental teams launched a petition on Monday to as soon as once more record manatees as endangered, as lots of of the beloved sea cows die from hunger.

The petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argues that the manatees shouldn’t have been taken off the endangered species list again in 2017. Since their removing from the record, manatee populations have quickly decreased. From 2017 to 2019, the Florida manatee inhabitants has decreased by about 6% yearly, the petition defined.

This sharp decline comes from a number of elements, a serious one being the lack of seagrass beds alongside the state’s coast. Air pollution from leaking septic tanks, growth, and fertilizer runoff has contributed to algae blooms which have killed off seagrass, the Associated Press reported. “In the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, extreme nutrient air pollution has brought about algae blooms which have fully extirpated seagrasses from 58% of their earlier space between 2011 and 2019,” the petition says. Leisure actions alongside the coast have additionally result in boat strikes that injure and kill manatees, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

1,100 Florida manatees died in 2021, in accordance with knowledge from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And 2022 hasn’t been significantly better: As of November 4, a recorded 735 manatees have died this yr.

Conservation teams and Florida businesses have carried out completely different methods to guard the imperiled manatees. Late final yr, state officers introduced a lettuce feeding program to assist manatees survive the lack of seagrass. Earlier this yr, the state needed to extend the feeding program as a result of the mild giants have been nonetheless ravenous. Florida officers will feed manatees lettuce but once more this yr to keep away from extra malnutrition die-offs, the Tampa Bay Times recently reported. 

However tossing lettuce to those hefty sea mammals wasn’t presupposed to be a long-time period answer, and it doesn’t handle the air pollution that’s destroying seagrass beds alongside the Florida coast. The conservation teams behind this week’s petition argue that placing the species again on the endangered record will allow businesses to have the coverage and assets wanted to additional defend the manatees. “Current rules don’t adequately defend manatees. In elements of Florida and different nations within the species’ vary, leisure customers harass manatees, and outdoors the USA, manatees nonetheless face poaching,” the petition stated.

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