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: French Forces Kill ISIS Leader Believed To Be Responsible For Sgt. La David Johnson’s Death

“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: COVID Booster Shot Confusion Ahead Of FDA Advisory Committee Meeting

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: Rodney Rodriguez, Driver In High-Speed Crash That Killed 3, Finally Booked Into Jail

(©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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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