Does returning sea grass offer hope for manatees?

An experimental feeding program fed donated lettuce to Florida manatees last winter. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida wildlife officials say seagrass is growing again in parts of the Indian River Lagoon after pollution killed off the grass, triggering a die-off of threatened Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus), which depend on it. Last winter, state and federal biologists embarked on an experimental program to feed starving manatees donated lettuce. A similar program is scheduled for next winter. A record of 1,100 manatees died in 2021. So far, 551 deaths have been recorded in 2022, the Associated Press reports. Ninety-two manatees are being treated at rehabilitation centers.

“We take it as a positive there is seagrass growing,” said Ron Mezich, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “What that means long-term, we have no idea.”

Read more from the Associated Press.