Record Manatee Kill: Hundreds of Deaths Bode Ill for Florida (Video)

It's not even November yet, and a record number of manatees has died this year. The total of 769 is more than has perished in any year since record keeping began, according to the Save the Manatee Club.

More than 100 of them were babies. Almost 300 of them died after a toixoc red tide near Fort Myers. ON the east coaast more than 100 died, likely as a result of the fact that miles of sea grass have been ruined by and for boaters,

"Our waterways are in trouble," says Dr. Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee Club's Director of Science and Conservation. "Brevard County [is at] the epicenter."

Despite the barrage of press coverage on glabal warming's effect on the region, the manatee die-off might even be more important to the Sunshine State. Manatees are among the largest and most vulnerable creatures in the area. Their deaths in droves is a bartometer of more extensive sea life problems.

The deadliest event was a red tide -- karenia brevis -- off Lee County earlier this year. The tide is deadly to sea creatures and puts off a kind of "aerosol" when the wind blows over it that can even be dangerous for people.

A large kill in Brevard County resulted from the loss of 47000 acres, more than 75 square miles, of sea grass,. That is more than twice the size of the City of Miami.

Human encroachment, too, kills the manatees. Check out this video at Crystal River Springs, which was taken by two nature photographers. It even shows a manatee stampede,.

Manatees Timelapse from Sea Legacy on Vimeo.

Patrick Rose, who is an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, pointed out this year's die-off follows a similar event just a few years ago. "With 2013's catastrophic loss of manatee lives coming so close on the heels of the mass mortality suffered during 2010, the already difficult job to ensure the survival of these gentle and defenseless marine mammals has been made all the more challenging," he says. "And it's not over yet."

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse