Manatee Swimming UnderwaterThe endangered Florida manatee has made little progress toward recovery, principally due to lawsuits. And that progress has beereversed in the last few years due to toxic algae, colder than average temperatures, rampant water pollution and removal of endangered species protections. 

With a population hovering at 5,733 animals, the manatee is in danger of spiraling toward extinction. According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, a total of 800 manatee deaths were recorded in 2022 – 400 of which occurred in the first three months of 2022.

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.


What’s Killing the Manatees?

    • Starvation is mounting as seagrasses die off, leaving malnourished animals unable to survive in increasingly colder temperatures.
    • Water pollution, which suffocates seagrasses and spurs toxic algal blooms, also continues unabated, with little if any state enforcement to curb violations.
    • Habitat destruction and disturbance from swarms of tourists in swim-with encounters, or from boaters and fishermen. 
    • Craft collisions from both personal and business crafts traveling in safe zones at speeds too fast for the slow moving creatures to avoid.
    • Unknown: The state has sharply reduced the rate of necropsies, so that precise causes of manatee deaths are harder to pinpoint. In 2022, 406 out of 800 manatees were necropsied leaving ample questions as to cause of death.

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

Florida Pollution Enforcement Reports

Since 2004, PEER has examined Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) files to assess pollution enforcement. In a state heavily reliant on its natural beauty for tourism revenue, it has fallen far short of acceptable pollution levels primarily in its waterways and wastewater management.

Despite pledges to strengthen pollution enforcement, Florida state records show declines in virtually all meaningful measures. Notably, violations and significant noncompliance with pollution limits are growing while major enforcement actions are declining. Read the Reports»


Florida’s Manatees Suffering Another Very Bad Year

Mortality Through September on Track for Second Deadliest Year on Record

Another Record Manatee Mortality Year Unfolding

400 Manatee Perish in First Two Months as Seagrasses Continue Retreat

PEERMail | Another Deadly Year For Manatees

Humans have made Florida waters dangerous to manatees and other living organisms due to fertilizer runoff, ...

2022 Begins Another Deadly Year for Manatees

High Toll in January Adds Cold Stress as Another Factor Driving Mortality

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

Manatee Deaths in 2018 Already Top Last Year’s High Toll

Nearly 100 Red Tide-related Deaths so Far; Second-highest Total This Decade

Disastrous 2018 Brings Record Manatee Deaths

In Less Than 2 Months, 154 Florida Manatees Perish, One-Third from Cold Stress

500 Manatee Deaths in 2017…and Counting

Last Year’s Mortality Spike Already Topped Before December Cold Snaps

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

Boating Speed Limits, Warning Signs and Swim-With Harassment at Issue

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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