Florida wildlife data show that 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 that 98 manatees died by watercraft strikes between January 1 and December 2. The previous record was 97 in 2009.
FWC spokeswoman Katie Purcell says 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.
There are currently more than 6,000 endangered manatees in Florida.
Jacki Lopez of the Center for Biological Diversity says there are ample legal protections for the manatee, but a lack of law enforcement to properly police state waters.