Commentary by Jennifer Mishler, Sea Shepherd Jacksonville

Red tide produces brevotoxin, a nerve poison which is responsible for a record number of deaths among ManateesRed tide produces brevotoxin, a nerve poison which is responsible for a record number of deaths among Manatees
Photo courtesy NOAA
Manatees are beloved here in Florida, and we saw just how much at this year’s Manatee Festival in Crystal River raising awareness about the endangered animals. Aside from their lovable nature, manatees are important to the marine ecosystem as grazers of seagrass and other vegetation. However, the manatees that call Floridian waters home are facing serious and imminent threats.

Due to their declining numbers, protections have been established for them. The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protect manatees under both state and federal law. Under these protections, it is illegal to harass, hunt capture or kill them in the United States, but they continue to face other threats including boat collisions, loss of habitat, pollution, fishing lines/nets and an annual toxic algae bloom known as red tide named after the color change it creates underwater.

Although many algal blooms are not harmful and actually provide a large amount of food for oceanic life, some algae grow excessively depleting oxygen in the water and produce toxins harmful to marine life, ecosystems, as well as humans. Red tide produces brevetoxin, a nerve poison which marine mammals consume when they eat plants such as seagrass, other marine life that have ingested the toxin, or when they ingest the algae itself. Brevetoxins can also be harmful to humans through the consumption of shellfish or if the toxin becomes airborne.

Prior to 2013, red tide was responsible for the mortality of a record 151 manatees in 1996, but this year combined causes of death have taken a much larger toll on the manatee population. According to a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, 585 manatees have died as of May 2, 2013- that’s approximately 11 percent of their total population! Some ill manatees have been found and are being rehabilitated at various facilities.

While red tide is killing manatees on Florida’s southwest coast, their population is also being threatened by unexplained deaths on the eastern coast of the state, which some experts believe is due to the manatees consuming algae in place of their usual seagrass that has been dying off.

The struggling manatees recently caught a break when Florida passed HB999, an amendment to a bill to create environmental regulation such as enforce local fertilizer ordinances and wetlands regulation (as one possible cause of algal blooms is runoff from agricultural and industrial operations). With summer quickly approaching, the manatees face yet another threat in an increased number of boaters.

On top of everything else, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the status of manatees, one of the first species listed as endangered after the passing of the Endangered Species Act, from endangered to threatened. As manatees are still facing severe threats and 2013 has been a record-breaking year for manatee deaths, we are urging that they continue to be protected on federal, state and local levels.

CALL TO ACTION!

The manatees desperately need our support on a national level, here’s what you can do to help the manatees of Florida:

1. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using the contact information below and ask that the manatee continue to be a protected species listed as endangered on the federal Endangered Species List, and to protect manatee habitats.

Phone:

Chief, Division of Conservation and Classification:?Gina Shultz - 703-358-2171

Chief, Office of Communication and Candidate Conservation:?Jim Serfis - 703-358-2171

Mail:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Program?
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420?
Arlington, VA 22203

US FWS Webform

2. Get familiar with the boating guidelines for manatee protection and always USE CAUTION. Above all, keep out of areas designated as “NO ENTRY - MANATEE REFUGE.”

If you happen to accidentally run into a manatee with your boat (please don’t flee) or find an injured, ill or dead manatee, please report the sighting immediately! Use the contact information here:

Wildlife Alert number: ?1-888-404-FWCC (3922)?

Cellular phone *FWC or #FWC?

http://www.myfwc.com/contact/report/wildlife-alert/

VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio if you see a manatee being harassed or an injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatee,

Please be respectful of manatees - DO NOT TOUCH, FEED, FOLLOW, OR HARASS MANATEES IF YOU SEE THEM!

3. Spread the word, awareness can create change. Please share this with friends and family concerned about the wellbeing of our nation’s animals, especially those residing in Florida.

4. Participate in a beach cleanup, organize your own, or connect with Sea Shepherd Jacksonville on Facebook for upcoming beach cleanup events.

Manatees in the wildPhoto courtesy Carol Grant/OceanGrant.com

Sea Shepherd
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
On December 16, 2016, the New York City chapter hosted the premiere of Why Just One? Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s first full length, in-house documentary. The sold-out event was Captain Paul Watson's his first New York appearance at a Sea Shepherd event since returning to the United States...
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Six fishing boats engaged in illegal activities were spotted by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, ending in their arrest by the Mexican Navy.
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Sea Shepherd and the M/V Farley Mowat break down how illegal underwater nets in the Sea of Cortez are snagged, pulled, cut and bundled. Footage also includes freeing and releasing live animals from the nets and cataloging those who unfortunately did not make it.
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
The Sam Simon has arrived in Mexico to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society-led campaign, Operation Milagro III. A partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican authorities, Operation Milagro III intercepts, intervenes and interrupts any illegal activities found in the Vaquita refuge in the...
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
**If you cannot see the captions on this video, just click on CC on the lower right corner of video settings on the video ** #Breaking #SeaShepherd helps scientists learn more about #rare Beaked whales! Did you know that Cuvier's Beaked whales hold the record for the deepest mammalian dive? Watch t...
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III to save the near extinct vaquita marina porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The M/V Farley Mowat is back on active duty with the M/V Sam Simon joining the Milagro campaign for the first ti...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
The Farley Mowat Sea Shepherd crew is called out to investigate a dead Brydes whale in the Gulf of California on November 5th, 2016 while patrolling the vaquita refuge. To help the Sea Shepherd crew to continue its work in the Sea of Cortez, including protecting the near-extinct vaquita marina porpo...
Entanglement in the South
Entanglement in the South
Operation Guardian Angel - In and around Bahia de Los Angeles, in the Gulf of California, countless marine species are entrapped in nets with little or no hope of rescue. Rosalia Tellez works for CONANP, a department of the Mexican government that acts as park rangers to enforce laws and assist in ...
Good and Bad Days
Good and Bad Days
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers over the course of two days. The first day Sea Shepherd locates and removes a long line from the sea; fortunately no animals were caught in the net. However, the next day volunteers find a sea lion that has been caught and died in a fisherman's net.
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Virus Hunter saw the vessel RV Martin Sheen under the leadership of Alexandra Morton, head up the coast of British Columbia Canada to expose open pen Atlantic salmon farms and the impact they are having on wild Pacific salmon and the the surrounding eco-systems.
Illegal Totoaba Nets
Illegal Totoaba Nets
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers through the process of locating, retrieving and disposing of illegal nets in the Gulf of California.
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
August 12th 2016: Early Thursday morning the R/V Martin Sheen assisted Melissa Willie, a band councilor of the Musgamagw Dza’wada’enuxw nation, in hand delivering a letter to three farms expressing the nations disapproval of the industry. Sea Shepherd crew alongside independent biologist Alexand...
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
Ross McCall travels to the Faroe Islands to explore the truths behind the centuries old tradition of the brutal Pilot Whale drives.
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Sea Shepherd Chairman of the Board, actor/activist Pamela Anderson, cautions viewers about the dangers of eating farmed salmon.
Why Just One?  Indiegogo Video
Why Just One? Indiegogo Video
Support Sea Shepherd's documentary by sharing and backing our Indiegogo campaign here: http://bit.ly/1OfvER6
Milagro Summary - English
Milagro Summary - English
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Milagro II has come to an end. Milagro is its campaign to fight the looming extinction of the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. With an estimate of less than 100 surviving vaquita, Sea Shepherd ships the R/V Martin Sheen...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Watch the crew of the Farley Mowat capture footage of illegal fishing activity with a night vision drone and pull up a totoaba net in the dead of night. This is the final vlog of Operation Milagro II!
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project is dedicated to collect samples from whales in the Gulf of California to measure levels of toxins in whales in order to determine the levels of toxins in the Gulf of California itself. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Never before seen footage. Sea Shepherd catches critically endangered totoaba poacher in the act. The Sea Shepherd crew filmed these totoaba poachers as they were checking one of their illegal nets in the protected vaquita habitat. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the wor...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Watch‬ the routine of our crew doing valuable work in the ‪Sea of Cortez‬. We have been very effective at removing illegal fishing gear from the ‪‎vaquita‬ porpoise's habitat. So much so, that now, most of the time we remove nets and lines that are mostly empty, our favorite thing to do....
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
The Sea Shepherd crew has found 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks in the month of march of 2016. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org/milagro2
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
While patrolling the waters of the upper Gulf of California the Sea Shepherd crew found a dead vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the whole world. The crew also found a Great White Shark caught in an illegal gillnet.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
This week, the crew of ‪Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The M/V Farley Mowat and The RV Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass long line from the critically endangered ‪vaquita porpoise habitat. The totoaba fish is also critically endangered. Watch all episodes at: http...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd crew rescued a whale entangled in an illegal totoaba gillnet in the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd currently has two vessels in Mexico's Gulf of California on OPERATION MILAGRO. Our goal is to save the vaquita porpoises, the most endangered marine mammal. The vaquita are caught as a r...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
You might know Gregg Lowe from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now watch him explain Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro and understand why we must save the #VaquitaMarina - The most endangered cetacean in the world. Help us save the vaquita at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/donate-now/vaquita-appeal...