Florida manatees, suffering from excessive mortality due to feeding difficulties, will be fed by US authorities, the latter said Wednesday.
Getty Images via AFP
The release of nutrients into the coastal waters of this southeastern United States state, which is linked to agribusiness and urban centers, has resulted in proliferation of algae over the past decade, which suffocated the ocean prairies by blocking sunlight.
Without this pantry, many manatees would have starved to death, bringing the number of marine mammals that died in Florida to at least 1,017 in 2021, up from 498 in 2020. That record mortality rate is even more worrying as the Sunshine State’s manatee population is rising estimated around 7,000.
“These unprecedented circumstances call for unprecedented action,” Thomas Eason, assistant director of the Florida Wildlife Commission, told a news conference on Wednesday.
This initiative will mainly take place in the Indian River Lagoon, where many manatees take refuge in winter to use the hot water of a nearby power station.
Manatees, also known as “manatees”, are an average of 3 meters long in adulthood and can weigh up to half a ton. They are able to eat 10% of their weight on seaweed every day.
These mammals, whose food in captivity consists of salads, cabbage and other vegetables, are only fed when needed in the lagoon, explained Thomas Eason. It is forbidden for the public to feed them, he recalled, stressing the danger that such a practice will result in their no longer being afraid of people and their boats, whose collisions are another major cause of death.
The decision to feed them “will be a significant step in preventing the major food deprivation that resulted from last winter,” the NGO Save the Manatee welcomed in a statement.