Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 28, 2018

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

2018 on Track to Be Record-breaking Year for Florida Manatee Deaths

Boat Collisions, Red Tide Are Leading Causes of Fatalities

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— 2018 is on track to be a record-breaking year for Florida manatee deaths. At least 804 have been killed in this year, including more than 300 from boat strikes and toxic red tide. The previous record was set in 2013, another bad red tide year, with 806 manatee deaths. Most years average 400 to 500 deaths.

The bleak outlook comes a year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened,” a decision that ignored a steady increase in manatee deaths over the past decade.

“It breaks my heart that we’ve lost so many of these gentle giants this year,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The worst part is that it’s so preventable. We’ve got to do more to curb deaths from boat strikes and red tide.”

The toxic red tide was especially deadly during 2018, killing at least 209 manatees. There were so many dead manatees this year that researchers could not collect and test them all. At least another 119 manatees were killed by boat collisions.

A 2014 Center for Biological Diversity report found at least 668 manatees died from collisions with boats in Florida between 2008 and 2014. Despite this alarming trend, the Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to authorize construction of thousands of projects that facilitate increased watercraft access to Florida waters.

Although there are indications of modest increases in manatee populations, the threats that landed Florida’s beloved “sea cow” on the endangered species list still persist today, though this year’s red tide was particularly deadly.

In December the Center joined with two other conservation groups to sue three federal agencies for failing to assess harm to Florida’s wildlife, including the manatee, before approving ongoing toxic releases of Lake Okeechobee that likely feed the red tide.

Florida manatee

Florida manatee

Manatee photo courtesy USFWS. Graphs courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. Graph data courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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