U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing nearly $500,000 to help save the the Tampa Bay area’s dying manatees, Rep Charlie Crist announced on Twitter on Monday.
The Florida Democrat said in the tweet that much of that funding will go toward Tampa Bay organizations working to save the manatees, which have been dying at unprecedented levels across the state.
With more than 900 deaths so far in 2021, Florida’s manatee deaths are on pace to more than double the deaths registered last year if the current rate continues, Florida Politics reported.
The crisis prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to declare an Unusual Mortality Event in February.
The previous manatee die-off record in a single year was 830, which was set in 2013.
The federal government says about 6,300 manatees currently live in Florida waters, which is a sharp increase from approximately 1,300 some 30 years ago.
Both federal and state wildlife officials have been investigating the problem, with Florida officials saying the main cause of the death of the manatees is starvation due to the loss of seagrass beds.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explained that “unprecedented manatee mortality due to starvation was documented on the Atlantic coast this past winter and spring. Most deaths occurred during the colder months when manatees migrated to and through the Indian River Lagoon, where the majority of seagrass has died off,” according to Florida Politics.
As part of the probe, scientists are looking into both short and longterm, as well as small and large-scale response options, including aquatic habitat restoration, according to the commission.
Another concern for the manatees that should be recognized, the state agency stated, was “watercraft-related mortality.”
In addition to the federal funds, this past session Florida lawmakers appropriated $8 million in order to help restore seagrass and to look into the root causes of the crisis over the past winter, particularly in the Indian River Lagoon
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