The endangered Florida manatee has made only tenuous progress toward recovery, principally due to lawsuits. And that progress has beereversed in the last few years due to toxic algae and removal of protections. 

With a population hovering under 6000 animals, according to 2018 agency estimates, the manatee is in danger of spiraling toward extinction: 

    • A total of 804 manatee deaths were recorded, higher than any other year save the massive die-off in 2013 which saw 830 deaths; 
    • More than a quarter (209) were red-tide related, more than triple the toll taken in 2017 and again second only to the 277 red-tide deaths in 2013; and 
    • Compounding these losses was a record number of deaths from boating collisions, with 119 in 2018, compared to 111 in 2017 and 102 in 2016, both previous record totals. 

What are the major factors? 

    • The potential biological removal level (PBR) is defined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population. The PBR for manatees is approximately 12 per year.  
    • The State of Florida projects a 30% to 50% decline in manatee population over the next 60 years due to the triple threat of rising boat traffic, loss of habitat (particularly warm springs) and red tides and algal blooms poisoning the manatees and their food supplies; and 
    • Much critical manatee habitat is unprotected from swarms of tourists in swim-with encounters, or from boaters and fishermen. 

By every measure, the Florida manatee population is not recovering it is teetering on the precipice. Yet both state and federal agencies are moving toward reducing protections for the manatee including stripping the species of its endangered status. 

Biggest Threat to Manatees? Humans.

Ramos Keith, USFWS

Swim-With Harassment

Every year an estimated 100,000 tourists participate in manatee “swim-with” programs that promote direct encounters in manatee lagoons.

Bonde, Robert K, USFWS

Speed Kills

Boats, docks, the need for speed all pose immense threats to manatees


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PEERMail | Another Deadly Year For Manatees

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Record Manatee Mortality in New Year 

More Than 300 Die in Six Weeks; Vast Majority Not Necropsied

Record Florida Manatee Boat Kills in 2019

Annual Death Toll Reaches Third Highest; Tops Five-Year Average

Manatee Deaths in 2018 Approaching All-Time Record

More Than One-Seventh of Population Perished as Red Tide Mortality Tripled

September Was Especially Deadly for Florida Manatees

Red Tide Drives Manatee Mortality So Far in 2018 to Third-Highest All Time

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Disastrous 2018 Brings Record Manatee Deaths

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500 Manatee Deaths in 2017…and Counting

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Manatee Mortality Spiked in 2016

Record Number of Florida Manatees Killed by Boat Collisions

Florida Manatees Get Scrooged for the Holidays

Chamber of Commerce Pressures Delay of Manatee “Swim-With” Safeguards

New Manatee Safeguards Need to Be Strengthened

Inadequate Enforcement Unless Refuge Adopts Video Monitoring System

Manatee Harassment Rampant on Refuges

“Out-of-Hand” Disturbances, Enforcement Overwhelmed, Visitor Education Failing

New Manatee Protection Lawsuit in the Works

End of “Swim-With” Programs, Plus Expansion of Habitat and Sanctuaries Sought

Record Manatee Deaths in 2013 on Surging Red Tides

Fatalities More than Double; Red Tide Deaths Equal Combined 8 Year-Total

Speed Kills

With manatee numbers temporarily growing, Florida developers are waging an all-out campaign to undo the very ...

Swim-With Harrassment

Every year an estimated 100,000 tourists participate in manatee “swim-with” programs that promote direct ...


The endangered Florida manatee has made only tenuous progress toward recovery, principally due to lawsuits. And ...

Manatee Safeguard Limits Undermine Effectiveness

Pending Kings Bay Manatee Refuge Long Overdue but May Be Too Little Too Late

Make Emergency Manatee Measures Stronger and Permanent

115 Manatee Deaths So Far in 2011; Emergency Safeguards Lapse in Mid-March

Feds Announce Emergency Rule to Protect Manatees

Expanded Manatee Refuge and Winter Limits on Boating, Swimming and Fishing

New Lawsuit Looms for Manatee Protection

Record Mortality Cited in Legal Notice Seeking Sanctuary Designation

Feds Okay Tourists Swimming With Manatees

Fish & Wildlife Service Rejects PEER Petition to End “Swim-With” Permits

Manatees’ Fragile Fate Mirrors National Wildlife Peril

Senate Confirmation Hearing Today for Fish & Wildlife Service Director

Move to End Harassment of Florida Manatees

Legal Filing to Outlaw Manatee “Swim-With” Dives by 100,000 Tourists Annually

Lawsuit to Force Florida Manatee Oversight Record Release

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Florida’s New Manatee Plan Still Falls Far Short

Second Attempt to Justify Reduced Manatee Protections Has Gaping Holes


Down-Listing Comes Despite Record Number of Manatee Fatalities in 2006

Florida Plan Dims Prospects for Manatee Survival

State Lowers Protections Despite Record Deaths and Projected Population Decline
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