Manatee deaths soar in Florida, but drop Volusia, Flagler

Widespread red tide algae blooms proved devastating for Florida’s manatees in 2018, helping boost the total number of manatee deaths statewide to the second highest on record.

A preliminary analysis from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission puts the total manatee deaths at 823, just seven shy of the record set in 2013 — 830.

At least 211 of those deaths have been attributed to red-tide algae blooms that plagued the Southwest Florida coast for a year. Similar algae bloom events occurred in 2013, not only on the Southwest coast, but also in the Indian River Lagoon system, where manatees died in both Volusia and Brevard counties.

The total deaths in 2018 were more than a 50 percent increase over the deaths in 2017. But, in one glimmer of good news in an otherwise grim situation, manatee deaths dropped slightly last year in Volusia County.

State biologists are still investigating and finalizing their annual manatee mortality report and awaiting necropsy results for manatees thought to have been killed by the red tide blooms, said Martine de Wit, a manatee veterinarian for the FWC.

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