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Florida budget sets $8 million aside to help Florida manatees

The native sea cows have been dying at an alarming rate in 2021.
Credit: AP
FILE - A Manatee swims at Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, Fla., in this Jan. 5, 2006 file photo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 Florida's manatee population has recovered enough that the species no longer meets the definition of "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

The unprecedented rate at which Florida's manatees are dying has prompted lawmakers to direct $8 million from the state's budget towards aiding the native sea cows.

The funding would go towards habitat restoration and restoring manatees' access to springs.

Florida manatees have been dying at record numbers early in 2021. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reported nearly 700 manatee deaths this year. That is almost three times the five-year average.

FWC has said a majority of the deaths have been attributed to a "reduction in food availability," meaning a loss of seagrass.

RELATED: Wastewater flowing out of Piney Point could harm Tampa Bay area manatees

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that since 2009, 58 percent of the seagrass in the lagoon system has disappeared, choked off from sunlight as a result of an over-saturation of nutrients in the water. 

Seagrass is food for hundreds of thousands of animals and home to even more. The loss of seagrass has been especially hard on the manatees that graze on it.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently investigating the recent spike in deaths after declaring the increase an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). 

RELATED: Rise in Florida manatee deaths declared Unusual Mortality Event, prompting federal investigation

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