The Florida MAN... atees Need Our Help!
Updated: Apr 6
As majestic as they are rotund, Florida manatees are an iconic species that takes on the role of Florida’s state marine mammal. However, like many other wildlife species, Florida manatee populations are threatened by increasing human interaction, an abundance of red tide and algae bloom, and habitat degradation. According to a recent article published by the New York Times, the Florida manatee population has dropped 10% in the first few months of 2021, all due to the aforementioned threats. This 10% is greater than the total number of manatee deaths in 2020.
Although UP Cycle Design is mainly a zero-waste textile and upcycling company, we believe that the conservation of animal species is an important part of creating a sustainable environment. Due to the high number of manatee deaths this year, we see an opportunity to help out and save these magnificent creatures. Personally, I minor in wildlife conservation, and I wish to help threatened species in any way I can. And our co-founder Sierra has had a fondness for manatees ever since she was a little girl.
Aside from having intrinsic value (just look at how THICC they are), Florida manatees play an important role in their ecosystems. By grazing on seagrasses, manatees prevent the overgrowth of aquatic vegetation. Not only that, they also feed on invasive aquatic plant species, which if left unchecked can disrupt the entire flow of an ecosystem. Without manatees, Florida’s waterways could easily become overgrown, and this would be detrimental to all other species living in these waters. Some even call manatees a “sentinel species”, a species that exemplifies what could happen to the environment if they were to go extinct.
Florida manatees don’t really have any natural predators in the wild, so that leaves human interaction as their biggest threat. Boats will often hit manatees, killing them on impact or severely injuring them. If the initial strike doesn’t kill or hurt them, then the boat’s fast-moving propeller certainly will. Many manatees can be seen with scars covering their backs, a result of the propellers cutting into their flesh. This is just one example of how humans affect manatees. Another way is habitat degradation. Toxic waste from factories and runoff full of chemicals and pesticides from farmlands poisons the water, making it uninhabitable for the manatees to call home. Ironically, some manatee habitats rely on human factories. I don’t know the exact science behind it, but power plants near water actually heat up the water, making it hospitable to manatees, who cannot tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees F for too long. Several manatees can often be seen hanging out in the warm water near a power plant, and this actually creates a cause for concern: many power plants along the Florida coast are being shut down and moved somewhere else, so what will happen to the manatees who rely on these power plants for habitat?
Human pollution affects manatees indirectly too. The chemical pollutants that create an inhospitable environment also kill the seagrass that manatees feed on. Since 2009, it is estimated that 58% of the seagrass has died due to chemical pollution. Pretty much, manatees are living in an area that they can’t live in at all, and have nothing to eat. To make matters worse, algal blooms are another major factor hurting manatee populations, possibly more so than humans are. Algal blooms, a huge bloom of algae on the water’s surface due to an excess of nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen, create a barrier between the sunlight and the aquatic life living below. This is part of the reason why seagrasses are dying. Algal blooms are also toxic, but these toxic effects are amplified when mixed with the pesticides and fertilizers from human runoff. It really is a bad time to be a manatee.
So, I know it seems the Florida manatee situation is dire and grim, but not all hope is lost. There are several governmental organizations and NGOs whose aim is to help manatees. The Save the Manatee Club is probably the most prominent of these organizations. On their website, savethemanatee.org, you can find information, CTOs, ways you can help, etc. I highly recommend checking out their website to find out how you can help save the manatees, no matter where you are in the world. Florida manatees are also consistently monitored by the Fish and Wildlife Service and are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
And last, but not least, UP Cycle Design is in the process of creating a Save The Manatee sticker! Initial sketches were designed by yours truly, and we plan on using the sticker to help generate funds for the conservation of the Florida manatee. Stay tuned for the progress on that! In the meantime, see if there’s anything you can do to help manatee populations and stop the degradation of their habitats.
Thanks for reading!
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