In Florida, the 'Stench of Manatee Carcasses'

Bad water quality, algae blooms are blamed for die-off
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2021 2:56 PM CDT
In Florida, Manatees Are 'Rotting Along the Waterways'
Manatees swim with their calves at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Fla.   (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

(Newser) – As of last month, 749 manatee deaths had been recorded in Florida by state wildlife officials this year. That already surpasses last year's total and puts the state on track to exceed the record 804 deaths in 2018, reports the Guardian. Considering that only about 7,500 of the slow-moving creatures are thought to exist in Florida, advocates are raising the alarm. A major culprit appears to be water pollution, reports CNN. Specifically, runoff with fertilizer, toxins, and microplastics leads to the formation of algae blooms that wipe out sea grass, the manatees' main source of food. The issue is particularly pronounced in the Indian River Lagoon, an inland estuary the manatees have long visited and where more than half the seagrass has vanished since 2009.

"With seagrass being scarce, it seems like manatees may be quite literally starving to death, which is one of the saddest sentences I've ever typed," writes Molly Taft at Earther. Earlier this month, the Orlando Sentinel unleashed a blistering editorial that blamed former Gov. (and current US senator) Rick Scott for loosening environmental rules. "And you folks who joke smugly about 'tree-huggers' and their oh-so-silly proposals—have you smelled the stench of manatee carcasses in Brevard County, ground zero for the die-off with nearly 300 rotting along the waterways?" it asks. Meanwhile, two members of Florida's congressional delegation, Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Stephanie Murphy, have introduced legislation to increase federal funding for manatee protection. (Read more manatees stories.)

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