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Manatee deaths are down from last year, but still above the five-year average

A Florida manatee cow and calf.
Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A Florida manatee cow and calf.

here have been 625 manatee deaths in Florida waters so far this year, down from last year’s record pace, but still well ahead of the five-year average.

During the past winter, wildlife officials undertook a highly unusual supplemental feeding effort that provided lettuce to manatees, which were starving along Florida’s east coast.

The starvation was caused by poor water quality and algae blooms that depleted seagrass beds in prime foraging areas in the Indian River Lagoon.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says about 140 distressed manatees have been rescued over the past year.

During a commission meeting this week, FWC Assistant Executive Director Thomas Eason said over 200,000 pounds of lettuce were given to manatees during this year’s feeding program, which is expected to continue next winter.

“It’s ongoing," Eason said. "Yes, there are a lot of manatees dying. No, they are not going extinct in that part of the state, and yes, we are doing everything we possibly can.”

The number of sea cow deaths is down from 849 at the same point last year, when a record 1,101 deaths were reported.