Endangered With No Protection: Manatees

by Rachel Kersten - Freeman
& Sophie Brown
In 2017, manatees were removed from the endangered list due to an increase in their population and how their habitats were thriving. However, now this could be seen as a fundamental error that needs addressing sooner rather than later.
In 2021 there was approximated to be 1101 deaths in Florida alone, this represented 13% of all manatees that lived in the state. 2021 was the worst year on record for manatee deaths; in 2022 there has been 736 deaths recorded as of November 11th (in Florida). The causes of this decline include boat collisions and the destruction of their main food source—seagrass—leading to starvation. 

Seagrasses are flowering plants that live under the surface. They’re often found in vast beds called seagrass meadows which are home to a multitude of marine animals. The destruction of sea grass appears to be the leading cause of the decline in the manatee population. This has happened because of the pollution of fertiliser run-off, septic tanks and wastewater leaks, and the “normal” pollution from everyday western life. Collectively, these provoke algae blooms which kill the seagrass. This doesn’t just affect the manatees as seagrass not only provides food for them but also sea turtles, parrot fish, surgeonfish, sea urchins, and many more, smaller organisms that feed off the seagrass and the epiphytes and invertebrates that live in them. 

There have been efforts to try and solve this issue of starvation; a program that’s been running for two years in which mainly donated lettuce has been fed to these manatees. Last year 91,600 kg of lettuce was fed to the manatees. However, many wildlife experts have warned that starvation is a chronic issue and without properly addressing the problem and reducing the pollution we pump into our rivers, the population of manatees will continue to decrease.  

It seems that right now the best thing we can do is get manatees back on the endangered list to raise awareness of what we pump into our oceans. Although manatees are not found in the UK, the pollution of our rivers, lakes, and oceans is an international issue that is not only destroying habitats and food for animals but is also destroying our habitat and our food. We may not be as endangered as manatees but if we keep on at the rate we’re going, we may as well be on the endangered list as well.

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