WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — They are known as the cows of the sea, but manatees swimming in Florida's waterways are dying at an alarming rate.
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"The future of manatees is not secure. Their habitats are declining," said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the Save The Manatee Club.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than 400 manatees have died in Florida in 2021. That figure is already more than half the total number of deaths in all of 2020.
"The worst of it is a combination between cold stress and the lack of forage, so malnutrition and cold stress combined," Rose said.
Brevard County is the main focus, as well as the east coast in the Indian River Lagoon, according to Rose.
He believes manatees are becoming malnourished because a lack of seagrass has caused by too many nutrients in the water over the past decade. Their habitat is also being threatened.
"Work is being done to retain those waters and clean them up, but not fast enough, so more has to happen or this cycle will continue," Rose said.
Boat strikes also threaten the manatees.
Rose reminds boaters to slow down and keep a lookout for injured or sick manatees.
Manatee season runs through March 31.