Have you loved a manatee today?
We believe that every animal is important to maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. Manatees have a special place in our hearts here at 4ocean because we work and play in the same waterways they call home. While these gentle giants have no natural predators, they’re still an endangered species. Unfortunately, human activity is the biggest threat they face. Since today is Manatee Appreciation Day, there’s no better time to raise awareness so let’s dive right in!
Manatees are curious creatures that use their mouths and flippers to explore their environment. Anything that gets stuck in seagrass beds or other vegetation, including plastic bags, balloons, and fish hooks, can be ingested. Monofilament fishing line is a particular hazard. Manatees’ intestines are over 100 feet long, which makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for them to pass the plastic they ingest.
Manatees can easily become entangled in anchor lines, crab trap buoys, and abandoned fishing gear. These aquatic animals need air to breathe and can drown if they get stuck below the surface. Even if they have access to air or are rescued in time, it’s still possible for them to seriously damage themselves. Some manatees have lost flippers this way.
Manatees are herbivores who love to munch on seagrass, mangrove leaves, certain kinds of algae, and other water plants. They spend up to eight hours a day foraging and eat as much as 10% of their body weight in water veggies every day.
Water pollution, plastic pollution, herbicides, dredge and fill projects, and surface runoff have all contributed to the degradation and loss of many of the seagrass meadows and freshwater grass beds that manatees rely on for survival.
Fewer warm-water habitats
Manatees are unique because they’re able to move freely between fresh, salt, and brackish waters, but they don’t tolerate cold water temperatures so well. While they look chubby and well insulated, their size is due to their long digestive tract. Manatees actually have very little fat and can experience cold stress when water temperatures fall below 68°F.
Manatees rely on natural warm springs to help regulate their body temperature during cold seasons, but residential development has limited their access to these springs. With fewer safe havens where they can avoid cold temperatures, manatees are at a higher risk for cold stress, which can be fatal.
With no natural predators, manatees’ curious and friendly nature often drives them to investigate what other animals would hide from, including boats and people. While these characteristics have earned them cute nicknames like “floaty potatoes,” “sea cows,” and “roly polies,” it often means a higher number of injuries and deaths.
Buoyant and slow, manatees swim at a leisurely pace of 3 to 5 miles per hour. At that speed, they can’t swim or dive fast enough to avoid boats or other watercraft. Boat strikes are the leading cause of human-induced mortality for manatees. Those lucky enough to survive are covered in scars caused by hits from propellers and boat hulls.
Harassment by humans
Manatees are both cute and friendly, but it’s best for us to love these sweet creatures from afar. In the U.S., all of these activities are illegal because they can cause changes in manatees’ natural behaviors that harm them or put them in harm’s way:
- Never offer manatees freshwater or snacks this can train them to hang out around docks and marinas where there a higher risk of deadly boat strikes>
- Never touch manatees (unless they touch you first, and then it’s always one hand only)
- Never hug, jump or stand on, poke, prod, chase, disturb, or attempt to ride manatees
- Never separate a mother from her calf; her baby can’t survive without her
Our favorite manatee fact: The mermaid mistake
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And in 1943, he wrote a journal entry about an encounter with three mermaids off the coast of Haiti, “which rose well out of the sea; but they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.” Based on his description, it was later discovered that his crew most likely saw three manatees.
While it can sound a bit silly at first, there are a few reasons Columbus and his crew could have mistaken a manatee for a mermaid:
- Manatees have vertebrae in their necks that allow them to turn their heads like humans do
- Manatees can perform “tail stands” in shallow areas, which causes them to rise out of the sea just like Ariel
- They have finger-like bones on their front limbs that can resemble hands or arms at a distance
- As for the masculine traits, it’s likely they were referring to the manatees’ vibrissae, which are tiny tactile hairs found around their mouths and on their bodies that help them sense their surroundings. Even cooler, these hairs can actually grasp sea grasses and aquatic plants.
Mermaids are pretty awesome in their own right, but we think manatees are just as magical and worthy of our fascination and appreciation.
Pull a pound in honor of manatees
In honor of Manatee Appreciation Day, we’re bringing back our limited edition Manatee Bracelet today only! Order yours now to pull a pound in honor of manatees. Then wear your bracelet to help spread the word and show your appreciation for manatees every day!