The Rabbit Hole Deepens for Manatees..

Well, it’s official: three months into 2010 and we’re already experiencing our worst year of manatee mortality on record. I know that seems like an extremist statement, but the situation is pretty severe.  FWC’s latest press release updated the totals for mortality, seeing jumps in the three categories I last highlighted: cold stress, unrecovered, and undetermined.

Here’s the new data updated to March 19th, and keep in mind (as last time I showed a similar table) the data for all other years is YTD for the same time period from January 1st to March 19th.

It hardly needs to be repeated that in all of 2009 we lost 429, which was then the record mortality year. It will be years before we truly understand what this drop in manatee numbers will mean for the overall population but my greatest concern is for genetic diversity.  While it’s true we’ve had lots of volatility in the population numbers over the past few years (seeing yearly gains of a thousand of more from 2008 to 2009 to 2010, see here) this relatively enormous loss of manatees in 2009 and 2010 cannot be a good thing for the species.

Let’s continue to keep our fingers crossed for a relatively inactive hurricane season, a mild red tide season, and a spring and summer filled with aware and conscientious boaters who not only avoid manatees but also pull trash and entanglements from the water to keep them safe.