Pensacola, Florida (PNJ) -- As we Floridians watch the last few days wind down until the new
year, we can say one thing for certain about 2013: it was not the year
of the manatee.
For the first time since
record-keeping began in the 1970s, our state's manatee death toll
reached 800 in a single year. According to officials, that's almost 16
percent of the estimated population of 5,000 - a huge hit to the
sustainability of any lifeform.
Reporting for the Tampa Bay Times last week, former Pensacola News Journal writer Craig Pittman put
the current death toll in perspective, pointing out that in 2012 it was
only 392, which officials say is closer to the norm.
even more tragic about this year's number is that 173 of the dead were
breeding-age females. The previous high mark for manatee deaths came in
2010 due to a prolonged cold snap, but the temperatures mostly hit
younger manatees that were not yet breeding age.
Pittman points out that there are dual causes for this year's inflated numbers:
a massive bloom of Red Tide algae along the state's southwestern coast
caused 276 deaths early in the year. Red Tide has been around for
centuries and has killed manatees before. But this year was the worst
Red Tide die-off ever recorded. Meanwhile, a mysterious ailment has been
killing manatees in the Indian River Lagoon on the state's east coast.
All told, 117 manatees have died in the Indian River Lagoon since July
2012 .... No one can explain the die-off, which appears to be
as scientists are at work pinpointing the poison in the Indian River
Lagoon that has caused the manatee deaths, as well as a massive die-off
of fish, dolphins and pelicans, it looks like the mortality is,
runoff and leaky septic tanks surround and seep into the lagoon. And
nutrient-rich freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee is just fuel for
Red Tide blooms. It's the story of our state. We came, we saw and then
we conquered paradise. Conquered it to death.
is suffering environmentally, which will cause it to suffer
economically. Watching 800 manatees die in Florida waters is what it
would be like to see Mickey, Minnie and Pluto kick the bucket in the
middle of the Magic Kingdom. Even from a purely profit-minded
perspective - that's just bad for business.
needs to get serious about self-preservation. That will take serious
money, serious science and serious, long-term planning. Because in a
state so dependent on our aquatic environments, looking to 2014 and
beyond, manatees just might be Florida's version of a canary in a coal
Another deadly year like this will force Floridians to take a look
around at the waters around us and wonder who's next.
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
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