Documentation of the 2021 Manatee Unusual Mortality Event in Florida

CAUTION! Photos may be disturbing to some.


December 2020 to February 2021

Brevard County communities began reporting deceased manatees washing ashore in early 2021 and became involved in documenting manatee deaths. Fight For Zero, an environmental health organization in Florida worked with other organizations such as Bear Warriors United, Save the Manatee Club, Volusia County Environmental Alliance, and Dream Green Volusia in calling for an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for the Atlantic Florida Manatee, declared in March 2021. 

The Fight for Zero grassroots team brought national awareness to the manatee deaths and water quality issues through persistent advocacy, grassroots campaigns, partnering with local environmental groups, involving stakeholders, and going into the field with a certified wildlife monitoring team to document the event. The grassroots team monitors environmental issues through live streaming, video, and photography on various social media platforms like Fight for Zero Brevard on Facebook.  

These images are copyright-protected material. You can share the photos without altering them and with proper attribution to fight4zero.org. Profiting from images is prohibited. Not for commercial use without written permission. Fees may apply. 


Florida Fish & Wildlife loading manatees onto their trailer to haul to the Cocoa landfill in Brevard County, Florida.


The manatee zone at the Cape Canaveral power plants.


Florida Fish and Wildlife untied a deceased manatee from the dock to haul it to the Cocoa landfill.


The manatee deaths are the symptom of decades of water pollution and inaction, and we are out of time. Our Florida agencies and legislators must discuss long-term solutions for starving manatees, as our water cannot sustain life.


Multiple manatees piled onto a trailer to be taken to the landfill on a beautiful Florida day. It was 80 degrees out. Taken on 2/12/22


Florida Fish & Wildlife search for deceased manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.


The Fight For Zero team reported a harmful algal bloom to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in December 2021.


The manatee deaths are the symptom of decades of water pollution and inaction, and we are out of time. Our Florida agencies and legislators must discuss long-term solutions for starving manatees, as our water cannot sustain life.


Monitoring manatee activity and calling in animals that are distressed or deceased.


The deceased manatee was put into a trailer from the Indian River Lagoon.


Harmful algal blooms have killed all the manatees' food sources in the Indian River Lagoon.


Foam covers the Indian River Lagoon as the power plants run. 


The Florida Fish and Wildlife manatee feeding station at the power plant in Port. St. John, Florida. Feeding lettuce to appease the outraged communities who continued to report deceased manatees on their shorelines.


Florida Fish & Wildlife uses the Orlando Utilities Commission property and security to ensure privacy from the public.



In early 2021, Florida Fish & Wildlife was overwhelmed by the number of manatees perishing in the Indian River Lagoon. This worker pulls a manatee into a trailer at the Titusville marina.


The Fight For Zero leadership team kayaks along the manatee zone in December of 2021 to monitor water quality and look for manatees in distress. They reported a harmful algal bloom to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.


Media coverage of the unusual mortality event.


Fight For Zero Executive Director and cancer survivor Stel Bailey kayaks the Indian River Lagoon to document the unusual mortality event.


"We are lucky if it's only one a day." - Florida Fish & Wildlife worker.


Two baby manatees were tied to a dock waiting to be loaded into a trailer and transported to the Cocoa landfill. In the background is the Kennedy Space Center VAB building.


Florida Fish and Wildlife untied a deceased manatee from the dock to haul it to the Cocoa landfill.


Advocates collaborated to collect water from the Indian River Lagoon to send to Florida legislators in Tallahassee after 7.2 million gallons of sewage spilled.


Foam covers the Indian River Lagoon as the power plants run. 


Power plants are significant contributors to thermal pollution, which changes oxygen levels in the water and destroys ecosystems. The warm water that comes off these plants can cause suffocation of plants and feed harmful algae. The Cape Canaveral power plant has 4.7 million dollars worth of heating equipment, and its plant is a refuge for manatees during the winter. 


Manatees also have cancer-causing chemicals known as PFAS in their blood, tested at the highest levels of toxic fluorinated chemicals ever measured in the species. Florida has some of the nation's highest detections of these chemicals.

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