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FWC: Significant Decline in Manatee Deaths this Year; No Decision Yet on Whether Emergency Feeding Program Will Continue


Florida - Wednesday November 15, 2023: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have not yet decided whether to resume the emergency manatee feeding program.

When asked by WQCS News, FWC spokeswoman Lisa Thompson responded in an email that they are "reviewing data from previous efforts" and a decision on whether to resume "the supplemental feeding trial" this winter has not yet been made.

In 2021 1,100 manatee deaths were recorded, a die off blamed on the vanishing fields of seagrass. Many of the dead sea cows died of starvation. Seagrass is their primary food source and it has struggled to grow in the polluted Indian River Lagoon where most of the deaths occurred.

The emergency feeding program was begun in January of 2022. It resumed in November of 2022 and continued over the winter months until March of this year. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of lettuce was feed to manatee from a warm water feeding site near the FP&L power plant in Port St. John.

The decision on whether to conduct a feeding program for a third year over the 2023-24 winter months will be "forthcoming later this fall," stated Thompson in her email.

The total number of manatee deaths since January 1 of 2023amounts to 491. And while there are still six weeks left in the year, its unlikely that that that number will rise to the800 that died in all of 2022.