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The reasons that manatees are so important to Florida’s environment and economy



Florida – Manatees are endemic to Florida and the Caribbean. They are described as kind, gorgeous, and quite huge.

Florida suffers when manatees do, according to J.P. Brooker, head of the Florida Conservation Program at the oldest non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation in the country.

“Manatees are a linchpin species of the Florida environment, and they’re the canary in the coal mine for a lot of environmental problems,” Brooker said. “If our water quality is compromised, that kills sea grass, and that causes manatees to starve. If our water temperatures are often too warm because of climate change, that can also affect manatees’ migration patterns. It can affect the food sources that they thrive on. So manatees indicate to us a healthy Florida marine environment.”

As an ocean state, Florida is dependent on beaches and marine life both economically and environmentally.

“Our economy is directly tied to our healthy beaches,” Brooker said. “We have billions of dollars of impacts to the state GDP are driven by healthy Florida beaches and environment.”

Recently, manatee mortality has been unusually high. 25% of the manatee population has disappeared in the last two years alone, and the animals are starving to death as a result of pollution from humans killing the sea grass that these mammals eat. However, Brooker said the organization is optimistic the manatees may recover with the assistance of Floridians.

How therefore may South Floridians lend a hand? To keep Florida’s water pure, invest in improving coastal infrastructure, participate in the political process, and refrain from fertilizing lawns during the rainy season to prevent hazardous chemicals from washing into coastal waterbeds.

“Nobody wants to be in Florida if our environment is compromised,” Brooker said. “People are coming here by the thousands to get a slice of our sunshine, our beaches, and our oceans.“

Asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-list manatees as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act is another important action Floridians may take to conserve marine mammals. To make this adjustment, give your local representatives a call.

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