Did you know? Manatees and seagrass communities evolved together, and they share a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship. In a healthy ecosystem, free-ranging manatee grazing makes seagrass communities more productive.
Manatees are herbivores and feed on a variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants… including seagrass! Unfortunately, this critical food source is threatened, nowhere more so than in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL)—a critical manatee habitat—where a series of human-induced harmful algal blooms have caused the loss of more than 90% of the area’s seagrass biomass. Lack of food in this region has contributed to increased reports of malnourished manatees and unprecedented numbers of manatee deaths.
But there is hope. Habitat restoration projects are underway throughout the state, and there have been some signs that seagrass communities may be rebounding. Everyone can do their part by learning more about seagrass communities and taking action to restore and protect them.
- Read the Press Release dated March 1, 2023: March Is Seagrass Awareness Month
- Join the Webinar on Wednesday, March 8, 2023: Manatees and Seagrass
What is seagrass, how does it grow, and why is it so important for manatees? What happens when we lose seagrass? Find out what you can do to help protect aquatic resources.
Presented by Tiare Fridrich, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Biologist
- Read Our Brochure, Seagrass and Aquatic Vegetation
Donate to Habitat and Restoration Projects
Funds will support efforts like the restoration of filter feeding organisms and selective pilot seagrass restoration projects; aid with logistics and funding for aquatic and aerial surveys to assess the health of manatees and identify the areas in need of critical action; and support seagrass and submerged aquatic vegetation planting projects by our conservation partners.
Save the Manatee Club has a long and continuing history of working with partners to rehabilitate and protect Florida’s waterways, including but not limited to:
- Strengthening partnerships with agencies, universities and non-profits working to restore seagrass, clams, mangroves and water quality in the Indian River Lagoon;
- Helping fund research efforts to monitor state of the Indian River Lagoon, including the IRL report card and travel expenses for IRL Drone monitoring project volunteers;
- Opposing House Bill 349 and Senate Bill 198, the so-called “seagrass mitigation bills” that would have been detrimental to seagrass and manatee populations;
- Partnering with the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife to file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to revise outdated critical habitat for Florida manatees, which has not been updated since its original designation in 1976. As a result, it was announced in June that FWS had committed to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee by 2024;
- Partnering with the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Earth Justice to file suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida.
Check out this short video to learn more about what manatees eat in the wild vs. when they are under human care
Did you know? Manatees can eat 10 – 15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. A 1,000-pound (453-kilogram) manatee, for example, would probably eat between 100 – 150 pounds (45-68 kilograms) of food a day.
What Can You Do?
- Take the Pledge to be Fertilizer-Free for Manatees! Helping to reduce pollution from yard chemicals helps prevent harmful algal blooms from forming.
- Prevent damage to seagrasses by avoiding boating over seagrass beds or trimming up the boat’s motor and idling to a safe depth before getting on plane.
- Report distressed, sick, injured, or dead manatees to FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
- Do not feed or give water to manatees. This is considered harassment, which is illegal.
- Contact local, state, and federal elected officials to urge them to help manatees and restore the Indian River Lagoon.
- Join Save the Manatee Club’s volunteer team to be notified of upcoming restoration opportunities with SMC and our partners, such as seagrass matting, oyster matting, clam restoration, and more!