VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – While many are using the pandemic as a time to get back into nature, the Save the Manatee Club is concerned that more people on the water is hurting manatees.
What You Need To Know
- Manatee deaths on the rise in Florida
- Researchers say more people on the water could be to blame
- Many people have flocked to the water amid the pandemic
The club says so far this year manatee deaths are up around 20 percent from this time last year.
“The pandemic unfortunately could have contributed to this number because a lot of people took to the water and went boating as a form of social distancing,” said Cora Berchem, a researcher with Save the Manatee Club. “A lot of other things they usually enjoy like theme parks, restaurants were closed so a lot of people use boating as a form of social distancing, increasing boat traffic on the water, which most likely contributed to that number going up.”
Technically, only 34 manatees have died from boat strikes this year, but researchers believe that number is misleading.
“Now we saw over 120 manatees that went down as verified but not recovered, meaning no autopsy was performed on those manatees, so out of those manatees we really don’t know how many of those may have been a victim of boat collisions,” Berchem said. "If you are looking at last year’s number during the same time frame, there were only 38 manatees that were verified but not recovered.”
That is more than triple the number of manatees that were not recovered last year.
“Unfortunately due to the pandemic and the governor’s stay at home order, our partners at FWC were not always able to recover manatees and do a necropsy, meaning they were not able to determine what killed those manatees,” Berchem said.
As we get further into summer, she’s concerned the numbers will only get worse.
“I am worried with the longer that this pandemic is going on we could see potentially more manatees being hit and killed by boats, but at the same time if boaters are paying attention and they are vigilant when they are out on the water, hopefully we can reduce that number significantly." Berchem said.
To protect manatees while out on the water, the Save the Manatee Club suggests that you go slowly through idle zones, wear polarized glasses, and watch out for manatee snouts and footprints in the water.
If you see and manatees in distressed, they ask that you always call the FWC at 1-888-404-3922.