January 9, 2005

Hurricanes May Have Spared Manatees

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The fury of four hurricanes in Florida may have spared the state's endangered manatee population from further decline.

The annual report by the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shows deaths statewide fell to 276 in 2004 from 370 recorded in 2003.

"One theory is the four hurricanes that affected the state this year means we had less boating activity," said Tom Pitchford, a biologist with the research institute. "Fewer boats on the water means fewer manatees struck."

The total manatee death rate spiked in 2003 because of an aquatic phenomenon called a red tide event. It's caused by an unpredictable algae bloom that can sicken and kill sea life when it is ingested.

In 2003, the red tide event killed about 96 manatees. Otherwise, the 2003 death rate would have been closer to the total in 2004.


Information from: The Palm Beach Post, http://www.pbpost.com