Over 800 manatees have died this year in Florida waters; the highest number of deaths recorded since records were initiated back in the '70s. That's sixteen percent of the state's total population, and more than twice the number of manatees that died last year.
The 803 manatees that have died so far this year top the old record from 2010, when 766 sea cows died. That year's deaths were blamed on a cold snap; this year's number was partially attributed to a massive outbreak of red tide according to the Tampa Bay Times. About 276 manatees died due to the red tide bloom along the Southwest coast earlier this year.
Several more deaths can be attributed to a mysterious ailment that has affected wildlife in the Indian River Lagoon, a phenomenon scientists can't quite explain. A mysterious algae bloom has sprung up in the body water which blocks light to the sea grass. Nearly 60 percent of the lagoon's sea grass has died off in the past three years. Meanwhile, record number of manatees, dolphins and pelicans have also died in the lagoon. The death toll since mid-2012 includes 76 dolphins, 250 brown pelicans and 116 manatees.
All-in-all this year's death toll is shocking and could have serious consequences for the future of the species. About 173 of the manatees that died this year were breeding age females.