GAINESVILLE, Florida (AP) ― Florida wildlife data show a record number of manatees died in 2016 after being hit by boats, even as the overall number of the beloved marine mammals increased.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data show 98 manatees died by watercraft strikes between Jan. 1 and Dec. 2. The previous record was 97 in 2009.
FWC spokeswoman Katie Purcell said numbers are still being finalized but should be officially released soon.
Overall, the data show 472 manatees died in 2016, with 139 deaths still undetermined and 72 due to natural causes.
Jacki Lopez of the Center for Biological Diversity said there are ample legal protections for the manatee, but a lack of law enforcement to properly police state waters.
There are currently more than 6,000 endangered manatees in Florida.