Manatee deaths, sickness on the rise in 2021

The mortality rate of Florida manatees unusually high this year, according to officials at the Miami Seaquarium.

MIAMI, Fla. – Manatees and the current unusual mortality rate in 2021 is a pressing issue on Earth Day.

Miami Seaquarium’s Animal Care Supervisor Julie Heyde told Local 10 News that this year there were more manatees coming into its Rescue and Rehabilitation Program than she has seen before.

“The manatees that are being rescued, that are being brought in some of them, many of them are suffering from things like starvation, organ atrophy and a lot of them are swimming completely on their sides,” Heyde said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife reports 649 manatee deaths so far in 2021. Heyde said that’s more than all manatee deaths in 2020.

She said this is happening because of the depletion of many of the sea grass beds.

“The southern east coast of Florida is seeing some degradation of the sea grass beds.”

Many of the manatees that they are rescuing are orphans, Heyde said, because so many of the reported manatee deaths are lactating females.

The goal of the Seaquarium’s program is to get the manatees rehabilitated and back into the ocean.

About the Author:

Annaliese Garcia joined Local 10 News in January 2020. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism. She began her career at Univision. Before arriving at Local 10, she was with NBC2 (WBBH-TV) covering Southwest Florida. She's glad to be back in Miami!