Manatee in Florida
© Paul E Tessier/Cavan Images/Offset by Shutterstoc
Spotlight on the 'sea cow'. Manatee Awareness Month
Today we wish this gentle giant of Florida's warm waters a safe and happy Manatee Awareness Month. Closer cousins to elephants than to fellow sea mammals such as whales and dolphins, manatees follow a fully herbivorous diet of sea grasses and other marine plants—so these fish hanging out with our buddy here needn't fear becoming a manatee's lunch.
With the beginning of Manatee Awareness Month on November 15, a number of seasonal slow-speed manatee protection zones go into effect in Florida—boaters are urged to motor slowly through the water this time of year while manatees are on the move. But manatees face threats beyond boat propellers, including habitat loss, cold stress, toxic effects of red tide, and the loss of their favorite food, seagrass. Officials in Florida have reported an unusually high number of manatee deaths in 2021, mostly due to seagrass die-offs on the eastern Florida coast.
The good news? Manatee populations near Florida have rallied since their low point in the early 1990s, when it was thought only about 1,200 were left. The most recent state estimates have their numbers between 7,500 and 10,200 along both Florida coasts.