MANATEE RESCUE THE LAST STAND OF A FLORIDA TREASURE
The manatee is Florida’s state marine mammal, and its likeness is found all over the state–from murals and license plates to tourist shops and attractions. But the manatees' habitat along the east coast of Florida is dying. Over 95% of the seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon has died out due to a tragic confluence of events: huge amounts of wastewater from a growing suburban and urban population; fertilizer runoff feeding toxic algae and creating deadly blooms; aggressive commercial fishing, and increased use of the waterways for boating and other recreational activities. Fish levels are down. Plant life is at record low amounts. The manatees are dying. Experts estimate there are fewer than 8,000 manatees still alive in Florida, down more than 15% from just two years ago. More than 2,000 manatees have died in recent years. One third of all Florida manatees live in the Indian River Lagoon and many of these manatees are starving….to death. Scientists are discovering emaciated corpses and, even more disturbing, bone graveyards filled with thousands of bones. The aquatic grasslands that once fed tens of thousands of manatees are now gone. Instead of a lush pasture under the water’s surface, it is a desert; a moonscape where little life can survive. Entire shorelines are covered with the final remains of Florida’s most iconic creature. And as the manatee goes, so does the entire ecosystem. The Riverside Conservancy is on a mission. Its team of experts are striving to save the Indian River Lagoon and its most famous resident. Their scientists, conservationists, and committed volunteers work to document the failing health of the ecosystem, support manatee rescues, map locations of concern, engage local and state officials on action items, and restore the estuary to what it once was.