Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the phrase “nature is healing” has been a common and often false signal that animals are somehow making a comeback, and one species that’s apparently worse off is the Florida manatee.
According to public mortality records from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, manatee deaths have risen by 20 percent from April to May compared to last year. While natural causes are often the leading source of death for manatees, as well as things like cold stress, and perinatal death, another major contributor is boat impacts, and environmentalists say COVID-19 has caused a significant increase in these numbers.
“There are several troubling factors coming together during the pandemic,” said Save the Manatee Club’s Patrick Rose to The Guardian.
“Manatees were already facing accelerated habitat loss, rising fatalities from boat collisions and less regulatory protection. With Covid, we’re seeing manatees at an increased risk, both from policies that undermine environmental standards and from irresponsible outdoor activity, such as boaters ignoring slow-speed zones.”
Rose and others also argue that Florida has witnessed a massive spike in boater traffic since waterways reopened, as well as everything that comes with it: reckless behavior, destroyed grass beds, and trash. Because of COVID-19, there’s also been a decrease in guided, supervised tours, which can often help regulate and monitor fragile manatee areas.
Florida has witnessed 329 manatee deaths so far this year, and it's believed that at least 30 are related to watercraft collisions. For comparison's sake, Florida recorded 606 manatee deaths in 2019, and 136 were believed to be boat-related.
But experts believe this year's boat-related manatee deaths may be a lot worse than what’s known.
Due to necropsy restrictions during COVID-19, many of these manatee deaths on the FWC site have yet to be labeled with an exact cause of death.“We suspect there were many more manatees killed by boating than we could determine,” said Rose to the publication.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.