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Monday, Jan 22, 2018
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Florida says 538 manatees died in 2017, the third highest total on record

The state has released figures about manatee deaths in 2017, and it hasn't been good.

From the Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman:

ST. PETERSBURG — Red Tide algae blooms and speeding boaters helped push manatee deaths in Florida to 538 in 2017, the third highest total on record, according to figures compiled by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Red Tide, a type of toxic algae that has repeatedly bloomed off Florida’s coast since the days of the Spanish conquistadors, “did play a significant role in manatee mortality last year,” FWRI spokeswoman Michelle Kerr said Monday. Red Tide produces toxins that can paralyze manatees so they drown. The southwest Florida area from Pinellas down through Collier counties experienced a persistent Red Tide bloom from October 2016 through spring 2017. The state “documented 63 Red-Tide related carcasses during this event in 2017,” Kerr said. Scientists believe Red Tide algae blooms are not caused by humans — they can develop up to 40 miles offshore. But scientists say that once the blooms move closer to shore, expanding into estuaries and bays, their continued existence can be fueled by nutrient-laden runoff from human overuse of fertilizer and from leaking sewage lines and septic tanks. Speeding boats killed 106 manatees last year, according to the FWRI figures. That’s the same number of manatees killed by boats in 2016 – the first year on record in which the number hit triple digits. Eight were killed by boats in Pinellas County, five in Hillsborough, one in Hernando and none in Pasco County. The high number of boat-related deaths “is not a surprise,” said Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club. He noted how many people bought new boats in Florida last year and pointed out that the low price of gas makes it more economical to take those boats out for a run. About 931,450 boats are registered to owners in Florida.

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Florida says 538 manatees died in 2017, the third highest total on record