Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Was a Deadly Year for Manatees

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Was a Deadly Year for Manatees

Article excerpt

While aerial surveys last year showed a marked increase in the

number of manatees in Florida waterways, state officials and

environmentalists say the year also was the deadliest ever for

the slow-moving mammal.

In 1996, 415 Florida manatees died, more than double the

previous record of 206 in 1990. A severe spring outbreak of red

tide killed 151 manatees in southwest Florida. Boating accidents

accounted for 60 deaths, the highest number ever. In 1995, there

were 42 boating deaths.

died.

At the same time, state monitors said they spotted more

manatees than ever -- 2,639 -- during last February's aerial

surveys.

In Duval County, where a debate over a manatee protection plan

has raged for years, there were 10 deaths; January was the worst

month with five deaths. Clay and Putnam counties accounted for

two deaths each, while St. Johns and Nassau counties each had

one.

Lee County on Florida's southwest coast had the highest total,

145, followed by neighboring Collier County with 70.

The statewide figures have left manatee conservationists and

boating enthusiasts once again squaring off, this time over what

the figures mean. Conservationists say that despite the increase

in population earlier in the year, the deaths left the manatee

population below what it should be. Boaters say the early count

shows there is no crisis.

"We had a crisis eight years ago when the count was 800; now we

have a crisis when the count is 2,000," said Wayne Bazar, a

former member of the now defunct citizens advisory committee to

the Jacksonville Waterways Commission.

"We're not getting the whole story," Bazar said.

Patti Thompson, a staff biologist with Save the Manatees in

Maitland, Fla., said prevention plans need to be addressed.

While finding a way to battle red tide might take years,

Thompson said imposing even stricter boating regulations is one

way to lower the manatees' mortality rate. …

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