Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) shows that Florida has already experienced a record number of manatee deaths halfway through 2021. 841 of the marine mammals died between the start of the year and July 02, surpassing the previous record of 830 deaths set throughout 2013 when exposure to harmful algae was primarily responsible. The unprecedented mortality levels this year have occurred as a result of the disappearance of seagrass beds which has led to starvation. Biologists attribute that to increasing water pollution which has led to the accumulation of algae that caused the loss of the seagrass. Most of the deaths occurred during the colder months when manatees migrated through the Indian River Lagoon where the seagrass had died off.
Watercraft also pose a direct threat to the manatee population. 63 animals have already been struck and killed by boats so far this year compared to 37 last year and 86 in 2019. Human-generated trash also poses problems for manatees who end up entangled in everything from discarded tires to fishing lines and plastic packaging straps. The animals also tend to be curious which leads to them ingesting plastic and other debris, sometimes with fatal consequences. Researchers (Reinert, et al. 2017) state that in over 6,500 manatee necropsy reports from a 20-year dataset from 1993 to 2012, over 11 percent of the manatees that died either ingested or showed evidence of entanglement in marine debris (or both). Florida's manatee population is estimated to be approximately 7,520 animals today.