With two months to go in the year, 2013 already is the deadliest year on record for manatees in Florida, the Save the Manatee Club said Thursday.
In all, 769 manatees have died so far in 2013, surpassing the mark of 766 set in 2010 when hundreds died from cold stress. The total this year is almost twice the 392 that died in 2012, according to the conservation group.
In Manatee County, five manatee deaths have been recorded this year through Oct. 18, compared to six in all of 2012, six in 2011 and 15 in 2010. and according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Of the deaths in Manatee this year, two were struck by boats, one was stillborn or newborn, one died of natural causes and the cause of another death was undetermined.
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In Sarasota County, 19 deaths have been recorded this year, including 10 from natural causes and five that were stillborn or newborn. There were 14 in all of 2010, six in 2011 and four in 2012.
In 2013, there have been six recorded deaths in Pinellas County and 13 in Hillsborough County.
Driving a large amount this year's spike was 276 manatees that died after exposure to a toxic red tide bloom in southwest Florida, centered in Lee County, and the death of more than 100 in Brevard County on Florida's east coast, according to the Save the Manatee Club.
"This year's record-breaking manatee mortality is a loud and clear signal that our waterways are in trouble," said Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for the Save the Manatee Club.
Of those that have died this year, 123 were stillborn, newborn or young calves less than five feet long, which is another record, according to Tripp.
“With 2013’s catastrophic loss of manatee lives coming so close on the heels of the mass mortality suffered during 2010, the already difficult job to ensure the survival of these gentle and defenseless marine mammals has been made all the more challenging, and it’s not over yet," said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.
"What we put into our waters, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers, together with how we use our waterways, all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species. We must be better stewards of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe consequences going forward.” November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida, marking the time of year when manatees migrate to winter warm-water sites.