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TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute documented 337 manatee carcasses in state waters in 2008. The low number of red tide-related mortalities last year helped the number of documented manatee deaths remain below the five-year average of 357.
Watercraft strikes and perinatal (newborn) deaths were the two most commonly documented manatee mortality categories in 2008. The numbers for both categories were above the five-year average. Biologists documented 90 watercraft-related deaths and a record high of 101 newborn deaths.
Biologists report that a variety of factors could have contributed to the high number of newborn deaths in 2008. These factors include the possibility that there were more manatee births or that biologists recovered a higher proportion of manatee calf carcasses.
The FWC uses trends in mortality figures to monitor ongoing and emerging threats to the manatee population. Throughout the year, FWC researchers, managers and law enforcement staff work closely together to evaluate mortality data and identify necessary actions. FWC law enforcement, in cooperation with partner agencies, uses knowledge of local boating habits, well-posted speed zones, and up-to-date manatee information to focus on-the-water enforcement operations. Enforcing manatee protection zones and informing boaters about manatee conservation is a priority for the FWC.