FALL 2021: 25
According to deWit, starvation was
the overwhelming cause of death
on those manatees she was able to
necropsy. The cause is the loss of
seagrass in the lagoon, their primary
food source. While it’s worse in
Brevard County, it has happened
all along the lagoon. Mike Conner,
Indian Riverkeeper, reports severe
seagrass die off in Martin and St.
“Where once you had healthy
seagrass, now there is just white
sand on the bottom,” he said.
It’s not just manatees being affected.
Conner says there has been an alarming
decline in populations of game
fish in the southern lagoon. The
whole food chain is being threatened.
The primary cause of seagrass loss
is pollution and algae blooms. The
sunlight can’t get to the bottom of
the lagoon and the grass dies. There
is no quick solution. The Marine
Resource Council gave the lagoon
in Brevard County an F in its water
quality report card this year.
The solutions aren’t easy or cheap
and progress will be slow, causing
concern for the coming winter.
“We need to think about
supplemental food sources,” says
Patrick Rose, executive director of
the Save The Manatee Club.
How that would work is problematic.
“We haven’t worked that out yet,”
It also runs afoul of state and
federal regulations. Manatees are a
threatened species and it is illegal
for people to feed them.
Rose says there will need to be more
Manatee bones litter a spoil island in Indian River Lagoon where poor water quality is destroying the food source for the sea cows.
Chief biologist Martine deWit of the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission says the loss of seagrass in the
lagoon is unprecedented, leading to manatee deaths.