Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
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Manatee swimming near school of fish

Marine Mammal Fund

We’re raising money to support habitat restoration, rescue, and rehabilitation to respond to the crisis in the Indian River Lagoon. Please help protect our manatees!

In 2021, FWC recorded 1,101 manatee deaths, many due to starvation in the Indian River Lagoon. The lagoon used to house acres of seagrass that manatees would naturally forage on. Nutrient runoff and pollution have created toxic algae blooms that choked out aquatic plants. Now all that remains are food deserts for an animal that typically would consume almost 10% of its body weight per day, setting the stage for the unprecedented supplemental feeding trial from December through the end of March. Thanks to donations from you, we were able to purchase over 202,000 pounds of lettuce (12.6 million calories) to be fed to manatees at Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) Cape Canaveral Plant. Manatee mortality dropped significantly, although not to average levels.

We also helped FPL purchase a new climate-controlled manatee rescue truck for FWC, stocked with equipment to keep manatees comfortable during transport. Ferman Automotive Group of Tampa generously wrapped the truck just days ahead of the truck’s first rescue saving a manatee on the east coast that is still receiving care at SeaWorld. 

Thanks to $103,000 from donors to GreaterGood, we’re helping to fund rehabilitation efforts at Zootampa and Jacksonville Zoo. These funds will help manatees suffering from starvation and other injuries recover in comfort before being returned to the wild.

Finally, we are committed to the long-term work of restoring the lagoon’s overall health by replanting vegetation at 10 sites in the lagoon with promising water quality. At one such site, the Loxahatchee River, which is a tributary for the lagoon, 60,000 eelgrass plants were transplanted this spring and are being protected so they can expand rapidly, becoming an important food source for manatees. “Underwater plants are the lungs of the lagoon,” said foundation board chair Carlos Alfonso. “Two-and-a-half acres of seagrass can support as many as 100,000 fish and 100 million invertebrates, in addition to providing manatees with a crucial food source.” Funding for these plantings has come from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Coypu Foundation, the Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation, Mr. Daniel Maltz, the Fox Rock Foundation, and many others. “Habitat loss is the main threat to the majority of our state’s plants and animals,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “We’re elated that donors have stepped forward to help us fund restoration efforts in the lagoon, making an immediate impact and creating long-term solutions.” 

In all, more than 1,400 individuals, businesses, and foundations donated $2.2 million toward the feeding, rescue, rehabilitation, and habitat restoration manatees so badly needed in 2021 and early 2022. And thanks to the World of Beer restaurant chain, there is even a beer benefitting manatees — $1 from every purchase will support manatee conservation going forward.

The Foundation’s Marine Mammal Fund can also support the conservation of Florida’s dolphins and whales. While some of our marine mammals have seen remarkable population increases over the years, others are still in critical need. By working together, we can ensure that they call Florida home for generations to come.

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