Eelgrass Rescues Crystal River Manatees

Eelgrass provides a crucial food source for the threatened and beloved West Indian Manatee.

Greetings! Have you ever been to Crystal River, Florida? It’s such an awesome place to immerse yourself in the habitat of the West Indian Manatee (Florida Manatee). From November to March, you’ll treat yourself to an unforgettable experience with these gentle giants and I can guarantee those memories will last a lifetime!

In recent years the manatee’s ecosystem at Kings Bay at Crystal River had an unpleasant visitor called, “Lyngbya.” Lyngbya, (pronounced “Ling-bee-ah”) actually isn’t a plant. It’s an “invasive blue-green algae that thrives in low-light conditions and has been darkening the waters.”

Now here’s the good news …

…The Local, grassroots, organization Save Crystal River is successfully restoring Kings Bay and returning the bay to a once again healthy and thriving ecosystem.

You may not recognize the name “Lyngbya”, but if you swim, boat, or watch manatees in Kings Bay you know what it looks and feels like. Lyngbya looks and feels like rather dark, slimy, strands of hair, which seem to grow from canal bottoms and get tangled in long, floating mats. And besides its look and feel, it smells like rotten eggs!

Restoring the native eelgrass meadows plays a vital role in many aspects of environmental health. It provides a crucial food source for the threatened and beloved West Indian Manatee but it also provides habitat for many other aquatic species. “Seagrass and eelgrass meadows are often referred to as nursery habitats, as their dense gardens trap and slow the flow of water, creating shelter for juvenile fish. Seagrass and eelgrass meadows also absorb carbon 35X faster than the Amazon rainforest and produce 100,000 liters of oxygen per hectare (about 2.5 football fields).” 

Lyngbya is a threat to the economy and quality of life in Crystal River and Citrus County. The springs there are the “lifeblood: commercial fisherman and recreational charters depend on the waterways for fishing and crabbing. Hotels, attractions and tour operators depend on tourists visiting the area to swim, dive, kayak, paddle board, hike, take photographs and see manatees.” 

Restoration is a proven three-step process

“Remove + Replant + Maintain = Restore. The first step is removing the Lyngbya through specially designed vacuum equipment that doesn’t disturb the existing sand and sediment. Once the Lyngbya has been removed, aquaculture specialists plant specially cultivated eelgrass, Rockstar and Salty Dog. The last step is perhaps the most important: surrounding the eelgrass plantings with a simple “manatee exclusion cages” that prevent hungry herbivores (not only manatees but also fish, ducks, and turtles) from eating the plants before they have a chance to establish a stable root system.” 

Here’s an Excellent Way to Teach Kids about Awesome Manatees with Kobee’s Fun Facts! 

One awesome tool for talking to kids about manatees is to read my debut installment in the award-winning Kobee Manatee® Children’s Educational Picture Book series. It’s titled, Kobee Manatee® Heading Home to Florida

Kobee Manatee Heading Home to Florida – (Lexile Measure:610L)

When you read this award-winning educational picture book to children, it’s a fun and fictional adventure loaded with weaved in “fun facts” on the threatened manatee. This quickly helps children learn more about this unique and threatened marine mammal. Here’s a brief synopsis …

This award-winning  tale will enchant as it creates awareness for the threatened Florida manatee. In late September, Kobee Manatee is on a twelve-hundred-mile mission to get back to Florida from Cape Cod, Massachusetts before the impending cold threatens his life. On his journey south, Kobee meets two new friends: Tess the seahorse, who loves to learn, and Pablo the hermit crab, who is in search of a new shell. Will Kobee and his seafaring pals make it safely back to Florida in time?

Each page includes fun facts on the extraordinary manatee with Dr. Katie Tripp, from Jimmy Buffett’s Save the Manatee Club.

We have Fantastic Reviews on this Award-Winning Release!

“Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida is a recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award. The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for parents and educators and is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Using a rigorous evaluation process, entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media trust the MCA Honoring Excellence seal when selecting quality products and services for families and children.” – Mom’s Choice Awards

“Children can learn a great deal about manatees and their habitat by reading about Kobee and his friends and their traveling adventure.” – Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation, Save the Manatee Club

“This luxuriously illustrated, infectiously charming story makes us want to save the manatee and have a plush version to hug.” – Clarion Reviews

“A swimmingly fun, educational trip sure to be enjoyed by young friends of the manatee.” – Kirkus Reviews

Keep watching for more of my blogs!

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 us manatees …

Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …

~ Robert Scott Thayer

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