This year on pace to set annual record for Florida manatee deaths

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FILE: Manatees swimming as a group. (Credit: WINK News/FILE)

The first two months of 2018 has been catastrophic for Florida manatees, according to data collected by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

A total of 154 manatees have been lost this year so far, which is on pace to set an annual record for manatee mortality.

The latest reports from the FWC claim the mortality rate sets a pace to easily eclipse the 2017 total of 538 manatee deaths and could surpass the all-time record die-off of 803 manatees in 2013.

The biggest factor of manatee deaths has been cold weather. According to officials, exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods induces manatees to suffer cold-stress syndrome, which triggers weight loss, internal fat loss, dehydration and other problems. Juvenile manatees are especially vulnerable to death from cold stress.

And with red tide concerns popping up along SWFL beaches, additional manatee deaths could soon be a reality.

Already this year, scientists are finding disturbing levels of algae in locations such as Indian River Lagoon, the site of devastating algal bloom outbreaks in 2016. Red tides and algal blooms poison both manatees and their food supplies.

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