Florida's manatees are dying at unusually high rates this year, and experts are warning that the sustained loss of a key food source is severely threatening the iconic marine mammals.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's most recent report, which spans Jan. 1 to May 28, recorded 761 manatee deaths so far in 2021. Researchers say this year's alarming die-off could surpass the record 804 manatee deaths that were tallied in 2018, NBC News reported.
"If this continues through the rest of the year, this is going to be one of the highest mortality years ever," said Jon Moore, a marine biologist and oceanographer at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
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Moore said the main issue is worsening water quality in Florida's waterways from wastewater contamination and nutrient runoff that trigger toxic red tides and overgrowths of algae, known as algal blooms. These recurrent problems are killing off seagrass, seaweed-like plants that grow underwater and are a main food source for manatees.
Read the full story at NBCNews.com.