Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — This week, the state of Florida surpassed 1,000 manatee deaths since the start of 2021, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said — that’s more than 10% of the state’s estimated population.

To stop the deadly trend, FWC is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (service) to address food shortages, mainly seagrass, that are driving manatees to starvation.

Researchers say they’ve attributed the “unusual mortality event” (UME) due to the lack of food in the Indian River Lagoon.

“Historically, the lagoon has provided essential habitat to manatees year-round, and during the colder winter months many manatees depend on warm water refuges in this area,” FWC said.

Now, the goal is for resource managers to restore the Indian River Lagoon to a healthy state, so manatees and other wildlife can benefit.

“Service and FWC staff, along with the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, have been actively responding to the UME and are further strengthening their response as this unprecedented emergency continues to unfold,” Shannon Estenoz, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks said.

The FWC and the Service are working closely with partners to continue investigating the deaths and explore a variety of proactive options to help manatees in affected areas.

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