Why manatees are our cause of the month

CAUSE OF THE MONTH

Manatee conservation

ABOUT

No predators, still in danger

Manatees are gentle and passive marine mammals found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas like those found in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Amazon basin. These docile creatures are more closely related to the elephant than they are to other marine animals.


As herbivores, manatees 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 can eat as much as 10% of their body weight in water veggies every day. 


Buoyant and slow, manatees swim at a leisurely pace of 3 to 5 miles per hour. They have a curious and friendly nature that often drives them to investigate what other animals would hide from, including boats and people.

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THREATS

Human activity is their biggest threat

Watercraft collisions are the leading cause of mortality for manatees. Those that survive are often covered in scars from being hit by propellers and boat hulls. 


Anchor lines, crab trap buoys, and abandoned fishing gear can easily entangle manatees. While some animals drown, others drag the debris behind them which can cause serious injuries and infections. Some manatees have lost flippers after becoming entangled. 


Any marine debris that gets stuck in their habitat can become a threat if ingested. With intestines over 100 feet long, it can be especially difficult for manatees to pass any plastic they eat. Plastic bags, balloons, fish hooks, and monofilament fishing line are some of the most common and harmful types of debris manatees consume. 


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. 


Manatees can experience cold stress when water temperatures fall below 68°F, which can be fatal. During cold seasons, they rely on natural  springs to help regulate their body temperature, but residential development limits their access and increases the likelihood of cold stress.

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CONSERVATION

Legal protections

In the United States, manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Thanks to these protections, it is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy, or molest manatees. However, more work is needed to protect manatees and their habitats around the world.

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