By CBSMiami.com Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — With Florida seeing a record number of manatee deaths this year, two congressmen Monday said they have introduced legislation that would designate the sea cows as an “endangered” species.

The proposal by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., would upgrade the status of manatees under the Endangered Species Act from “threatened,” offering more protections.

READ MORE: Teen Gymnast Reunites With Jackson Health Doctors Who Performed Life Changing Back Surgery

“Manatees are beloved, iconic mammals in Florida,” Buchanan said in a prepared statement. “This year’s record-breaking number of manatee deaths is staggering and extremely concerning, which is why upgrading their ESA (Endangered Species Act) status is absolutely critical. We must do everything we can to protect these gentle giants and Florida’s official marine mammal.”

Citing Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics, a news release about the legislation said 890 manatees died during the first seven months of 2021, breaking the annual record of 830 manatee deaths in 2013.

READ MORE: T-Shirt Disrupts Jury Selection Process For Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz Penalty Trial

Many of this year’s deaths have occurred in areas of the East Coast where water-quality problems have caused a significant loss of seagrass, a key source of food for manatees.

The animals were reclassified in 2017 as no longer being endangered.

MORE NEWS: First Suspected Case Of Monkeypox In Broward, Warning Signs To Look For

(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’ contributed to this report.)

CBSMiami.com Team