2021 has been a grim year for Florida’s iconic manatee. Nearly 1,000 deaths have been recorded, over 10% of the state’s total population, due mostly to starvation, shattering previous annual records. Once a success story, the lack of eelgrass due to water pollution in the Indian River Lagoon is threatening to turn back conservation gains for the gentle giants. As a sentinel species, the loss of manatees is a frightening alarm about the overall health of the ecosystem.
150+ individuals from across the country joined Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Coypu Foundation, the Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation, and Mr. Daniel Maltz in donating to the effort. Their contributions will help us replenish seven eelgrass beds along tributaries in the Lagoon where improved water quality will ensure the growth and survival of the plants. The restoration will provide manatees with crucial foraging grounds as well as habitat, food, and oxygen for other aquatic animals. Two-and-a-half acres of seagrass, in fact, can support as many as 100,000 fish and 100 million invertebrates. The replanted eelgrass should expand rapidly outward from the restoration plantings, especially with help from our partners like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who will ensure they take root.
Habitat loss is the main threat to the great majority of the state’s plants and animals, according to Foundation President & CEO Andrew Walker. “For manatees, the degradation or disappearance of eelgrass is a very serious threat. We’re elated that these foundations have stepped forward to help respond to this threat to Florida’s state marine mammal.”
To join the replanting effort, please donate here.