I first wrote this article on manatees months ago, and it just sat around because, for some reason, I was having trouble sending it in. So I am pretty happy I got a chance to rewrite it. Today covid is spiking, our Nation is literally on fire, and Florida – oh yes, Florida – is experiencing the impacts of the red tide. The latest red tide killed over 600 tons of fish. This single event caused by a combination of pollution – a leak from a wastewater reservoir – and climate change have made red tide kills much more frequent.
First paragraph and nothing about manatees, well it can be easy to forget about manatees. They are not everyone’s first concern. The days they were in the headlines have passed, I think. However, there are still many stories about the problems they face, and if you ever saw a calf swimming by, your heart would melt. When you see the numerous scars on the moms, you will get sad and then mad.
2021 has been the deadliest year for manatees on record. Eight hundred forty-one to date have died from starvation or killed by such things as boat strikes.
The toxic impacts of red tide have taken their toll on manatees over the years, as in 2013, the previous record for manatee deaths set at 830.
I am not a marine biologist or an expert on manatees. However, it had always been a dream to see these peaceful, beautiful creatures in the wild. That came true this March while vacationing in the Florida Keys. We spent a day at Bahia Honda State Park, and we saw three cows with their calves in tow. It was fascinating watching them swim buy, and as you see in the accompanying pictures, they are very gentle with each other.
The sweet behavior of these gentle aquatic creatures made seeing the dozens of scars on each of them all the crueler. Repeated boat propeller strikes that had gashed their backs were a testament to their resiliency. I had always known the precarious position manatees had trying to survive, but the increasing danger they face and the lack of public attention is a recipe for extinction.
I read a lot more about manatees and found several great groups trying to make a difference, such as Save the Manatee https://www.savethemanatee.org/ that are trying to help. However, I fear that the lack of concern about the environment from state officials in Florida leads to more pollution-killing seagrass and more red tide events. This crisis is all set against the stage of disappearing habitat and climate change.
It is hard as an individual to save a species or improve long-term climate change when our food prices spike 50% to 100% and a global pandemic ravages our communities. Try reading something on the numerous endangered species and find a way to help, even in a minor way. I am a big believer in a million little things making a significant change. It is cliche, but if each of us does our part, we can accomplish a lot.
Check out wimmerswilderness.org to learn more. Wimmer’s Wilderness is an informed look at Politics, Community, Government, Environment, and Education from a local perspective.