State and Federal Forces Propose Controversial Feeding Program to Save Florida's Dying Manatees
After the starvation deaths of more than 1,000 manatees in Florida this year, federal and state wildlife officials are considering an unprecedented feeding plan to help the animals through the winter.
This week, in a controversial and desperate move, environmental officials will unveil a proposal for test-feeding the marine mammals in one hard-hit location.
"This unprecedented event is worth unprecedented actions," Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), said at a news conference on Wednesday, per The New York Times.
According to the Associated Press, the plan would involve feeding manatees at a Florida Power & Light plant in Cape Canaveral, along the Indian River Lagoon. It would be an experiment involving lettuce, cabbage, and other greens delivered in a controlled manner such as via a conveyer belt.
Patrick Rose, the executive director of Save the Manatee Club, told the Times that manatees are given similar diets when taken into captivity for rehabilitation.
People would not be authorized to simply start tossing lettuce into waterways.
"Under no circumstances do we want people feeding manatees," Rose told the AP. "It's illegal and remains so."
Historically, the Indian River Lagoon has provided essential habitat to manatees year-round, including the hundreds who relocate from colder areas during the winter months. Decades of algal blooms caused by pollution, however, have resulted in catastrophic seagrass loss in the once verdant lagoons.
"Literally, saving manatees is part of saving the ecosystem," Rose told the AP. "If we can get this taken care of, manatees will flourish. If we don't, they won't. We are in the most critical position."
If you see a dead, sick, or injured manatee, you are asked to contact the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing #FWC on a cellphone. For more information as well as opportunities to help, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee.