A Record 6,250 Manatees Counted Off Florida Coast

Expanding urbanization, more human contact and increased water pollution

Gentle herbivores
Signaling a conservation success story, record numbers of manatees have been spotted in Florida's waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported an initial count of at least 6,250 manatees in Florida's waters – with 3,292 manatees on the east coast and 2,958 on the west coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Manatees are divided into three species. Although they are all very similar, they are distinguished by where they live – either between Florida and Brazil, the west coast of Africa or the Amazon River. These gentle herbivores can reach 4 meters (13 feet) in length and weigh up to 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds).

The Floridian coastal species of manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. They moved from “vulnerable” to “endangered” in 2007, with their numbers declining due to expanding urbanization, more human contact and increased water pollution. The year’s count therefore comes as good news to conservationists, showing a subtle increase in last year’s round-up, which counted 6,063.

Manatees migrate to warmer waters during the winter chill. Their return in early spring makes for the ideal opportunity to count their numbers.

The lovable sea cows are counted annually through aerial surveys. Along with providing an efficient statewide calculation of their numbers, this method can also reveal information on the manatees' distribution and habitat use. You can see some of the images from this year's aerial survey below or check out the full collection in the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute's Flickr album.


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