State of Manatees
If you have spent any time on or around Florida’s waterways, then you may have come across the Florida Manatee. The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a keystone species for the state. What exactly does that mean? A keystone species is an organism that plays a vital role in an ecosystem. Essentially, manatees act as the glue to keep all plants, animals, and microorganisms functioning in a healthy matter.
According to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the last survey conducted in 2019 amounted to a total of 5,733 manatees on the east and west coast of Florida. While this number is much larger than it was in the winter of 1991, the 2019 total is on average 1,000 manatees lower than the previous four years.
This decrease can be attributed to a multitude of things, such as debris getting caught in their tails or fins. In addition to this, there is a growing lack of seagrass availability and excess elements entering the water.
What do manatees eat?
The main food source for the manatees is seagrass. As the FWC describes the essential plant, the meadows of seagrass play an equally vital role in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem in Florida. Not only is seagrass a manatee’s food of choice, but it also aids in maintaining clean water. However, because of runoff and pesticides entering the water, manatees are losing safe food choices. If you would like to learn more about algae bloom as a result of increased temperature and runoff, take a look at our article Are Florida Manatees in Danger of Extinction?
What can you do to help?
Whether you live on the water or in a neighborhood, the way you take care of your lawn can impact the health of plants and manatees in Florida. According to Manatee Lagoon, a safe practice when fertilizing your lawn is to fertilize less or not at all. If you need to use fertilizer, look into using slow-release nitrogen fertilizers. This essentially consists of water-soluble sulfur and reduces runoff. If you live directly on a shoreline, you can also leave a 10ft space between the shore and where you stop your fertilizer.
How can you support Manatee protection?
- If you come across a sick, injured, dead, or tagged manatee:
- Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert toll-free number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone
- Donate to the FWC to fund manatee protection, habit restoration, and rehabilitation
- Support the Marine Mammal Fund through donation
- Purchase a Manatee License Plate and/or decal
- Volunteer for shoreline clean-ups
- Check for eco-action events hosted by IDEAS For Us
- Visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
- See, learn, and help crystal river manatees at this wildlife refuge