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Field Notes From Florida: Manatee Season 2023

Over the last two winters, FWC has implemented an unprecedented supplemental feeding program for starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon due to the loss of their main food source, seagrass, from algal blooms. There is currently enough seagrass in Mosquito Lagoon to feed manatees this winter so FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have decided not to enact the supplemental feeding program. However, they are ready in case the manatees need extra help, and we will be there to support them.

Seagrass restoration is a critical aspect of the conservation of these marine mammals. Not only do seagrass and eelgrass beds act as food sources for animals that eat upwards of 10% of their body weight per day, they’re crucial for hundreds of other species of fish and turtles. The Indian River Lagoon runs along 40% of Florida’s east coast and is home to over 4,000 fish and plant species, making it one of the most diverse estuaries in the United States. In the past 10 years, declining water quality led to ruinous harmful algal blooms. The lagoon has lost more than 46,000 acres of seagrass – 58% of the total.

Our Foundation is working to raise funds to replant seagrass and eelgrass in areas of the lagoon that are able to support marine vegetation. This can be a complex task, requiring careful consideration of environmental conditions, species of seagrass, and the overall ecosystem dynamics. Volunteers and conservation teams play a crucial role in these restoration projects, dedicating time and effort to replanting and monitoring the progress of the seagrass beds.

Restoring manatee seagrass habitats isn’t just about safeguarding a single species; it’s about preserving the delicate balance of our marine ecosystems, ensuring their resilience for generations to come. Through dedication, collaboration, and a shared commitment to conservation, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of manatees and the vitality of our water.

If you’d like to support our efforts, please consider a donation to our Marine Mammal Fund today.

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