Community and political leaders are sounding the alarm on the rising number of manatee deaths. On average, there have been five manatee deaths per day since the beginning of the year.
Rep. Vern Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District and he wants to see manatees back on the endangered species list. Buchanan says this would give manatees the highest federal protection.
Seeing manatees out on the water is always a pleasant surprise.
“They’re just big lumbering love bugs,” said Mike Kershaw of Cape Coral.
“It’s really cool to see them. It’s one of the neatest things,” said John Tucker of Ohio.
Florida is on pace for a record number of manatee deaths this year. The latest number from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows that 782 manatees have died this year compared to 637 last year.
Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, said manatees in Southwest Florida are dying for two reasons: Red tide exposure from brevetoxin and watercraft injuries.
Buchanan wrote a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that manatees be upgraded from threatened to endangered.
“I certainly think that they should be protected. I would be in favor of them getting back on the endangered list,” Tucker said.
Rose said placing the manatee back on the endangered list would provide more money for researching and protecting the gentle sea cows. “We need to do a better job today,” he said.
The Save the Manatee Club said getting manatees back on the list could take some time. They have to hire people to study the animals and do science reviews. In the meantime, FWC is asking that you be careful the next time you put the boat in the water Watch out for manatees and if you see one in distress, call FWC.