Celebrate the Green with March because It’s Seagrass Awareness Month￼
Greetings to you! I bring you both encouraging and sober news as we celebrate Seagrass Awareness Monthin March. Seagrass is the main food source for the herbivorous manatee. The Save the Manatee Club researchers dive into more depth of the good and bad news. They explain, “Declining seagrass communities have directly contributed to unprecedented numbers of manatee mortalities in Florida, but there is hope for restoration.”
“The state’s manatee population has suffered three years of elevated mortality rates. Seagrasses are an essential part of the marine ecosystem and provide food and habitat for myriad species. But, across the state, seagrasses are in peril. On the East Coast, ongoing human-caused harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Indian River Lagoon have resulted in the loss of 95% of the lagoon’s seagrass biomass. On the West Coast, a recent survey reported that Tampa Bay has lost 12% of its seagrass in recent years, in part as a result of similar, repeated HABs. This loss has been felt acutely by herbivorous manatees, which co-evolved with seagrass communities. Lack of food in the region of the IRL has contributed to increased reports of malnourished manatees and years of unprecedented numbers of manatee mortalities.”
The Save the Manatee Club continued and said, “In 2022, there were a total number of 800 recorded manatee deaths in Florida on top of the record number of deaths recorded in 2021 of 1,100. The loss of so many manatees will have long-lasting adverse effects on the animals’ ability to grow and thrive.”
Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of the Save the Manatee Club explained, “Many individuals are unaware that manatees and seagrass share a symbiotic relationship: manatees eat seagrass, while free-range manatee grazing increases seagrass productivity by encouraging new growth. Our seagrasses are a critical resource, but unfettered pollution from Florida’s growing human population has fed the cycle of algae blooms that cause seagrass loss and led to a heartbreaking number of manatee deaths over the past three years. There is still time to turn the situation around, but action must be taken immediately.”
Save the Manatee Club, “has long worked with partners to rehabilitate and protect Florida’s waterways.” It partnered with “the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife to file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to revise outdated critical habitat for Florida manatees, which has not been updated since its original designation in 1976. As a result, it was announced in June that the FWS had committed to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee by 2024. In May 2022, the same three groups together with Earth Justice sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida. The case is pending.”
The public is encouraged to take action to protect seagrass and manatees by:
- Pledging to be Fertilizer-Free For Manatees, which helps reduce pollution from yard chemicals and thus prevents harmful algal blooms from forming.
- Preventing damage to seagrasses by avoiding boating over seagrass beds or trimming up the boat’s motor and idling to a safe depth before getting on plane.
- Reporting distressed, sick, injured, or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at – 1-888-404-3922.
- Resisting the urge to feed or give water to manatees, which is illegal and can negatively impact their natural behavior.
- Contacting local, state, and federal elected officials and urge them to help manatees and restore the Indian River Lagoon.
If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC). They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how manatees are rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Robert Scott Thayer
March is Seagrass Awareness Month
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