Prepping for Manatee Season with an Underwater Cleanup - 4ocean

Prepping for Manatee Season with an Underwater Cleanup

It’s manatee season in Florida, so we partnered with Manatee Lagoon and Loggerhead Marinelife Center to clean up one of their favorite warm-water refuges.

Last month, we partnered with Manatee Lagoon and Loggerhead Marinelife Center to clean up Lake Worth Lagoon, a warm-water refuge for endangered manatees in Florida. Every year during the cooler months, hundreds of manatees congregate here to bask in the warm-water outflows from Florida Power & Light Company’s Clean Energy Center in Riviera Beach.

Check out the recap video below!


Manatees need warm water to survive

While manatees look chubby and well insulated, this endangered species actually has very little body fat and can experience potentially fatal cold stress when water temperatures fall below 68°F.

During the colder months, manatees visit Florida’s natural warm springs to help regulate their body temperature; however, residential development over the last few decades has limited their access to many of these habitats, which has forced them to find new and somewhat unconventional ways to stay warm — like hanging around power plants.


Why we participate the annual Lake Worth Lagoon cleanup

Lake Worth Lagoon is an important place for manatees. It’s also the location of two stormwater outflow pipes that drain rainwater from surrounding streets. With this rainwater comes a lot of trash, which can pose both ingestion and entanglement risks for manatees.

To prepare the estuary for the arrival of these gentle creatures, our friends at Manatee Lagoon and Loggerhead Marinelife Center host an underwater cleanup every year to rid the area of harmful trash and educate the public about proper waste disposal. For the last two years, we’ve joined the cleanup both above and below water to help bring attention to the plight of one of our favorite ocean animals.

This year, there were three divers, four freedivers, and a team of four on land, all working to clear out the trash that had accumulated at the bottom of the lagoon. A 4ocean vessel was also on-site to assist with trash removal and transport.


The results of this year’s cleanup

This year, we recovered 310 pounds of submerged trash from the lagoon. Plastic beverage bottles and aluminum cans were among the most common types of debris found. Some of the more unique finds included a 2010 driver’s license, a roller skate wheel, and a $20 bill. Our biggest takeaway from the cleanup was the amount of marine debris that could be directly attributed to land-based sources, which account for nearly 80% of all marine debris. 

The plastic we found was less weathered and broken down than what we typically remove from the ocean, which suggests that it had come from the stormwater pipes rather recently. Nor was the material covered with lots of marine growth, which indicates that the debris at this location doesn’t sit here, but is moved from the lagoon by waves and currents that will eventually carry it to the ocean.


What comes next

In addition to future cleanups in this area, we’ll continue to partner with our friends at Manatee Lagoon and Loggerhead Marinelife Center to bring awareness to the impact of our choices and address the larger issue of stormwater runoff as a source of ocean plastic pollution. Stay tuned for updates and be sure to pull a pound for the manatees!

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