A Voice for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy Unveils “Florida Loves Manatees” Sand Sculpture —as Ian’s Aftermath Threatens Manatees

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SIESTA KEY, FL — Hurricane Ian’s aftermath is bringing another blow to Florida’s struggling manatees. The powerful storm has contributed to a red tide outbreak in Sarasota and Charlotte Counties, which can kill seagrass — food manatees need to survive.

To draw attention to this critical issue, Ocean Conservancy is unveiling a “Florida Loves Manatees” sand sculpture in Siesta Key, officially launching November’s Manatee Awareness Month.

“Florida is at a crossroads, with a record number of manatees dying,” said Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Florida Conservation. “We must keep this issue at the forefront, so leaders statewide will invest in solutions to improve water quality—protecting natural habitats to save our beloved manatees.”

Hurricane Ian sent large amounts of polluted water into the Gulf of Mexico —driving a spike in algae blooms that block sunlight seagrass needs to grow. Without enough seagrass, manatees have been starving and dying. An estimated 1,101 manatees died in 2021, Florida’s worst year on record. This year, an estimated 719 manatees have died, according to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife preliminary report.

“We moved to Florida because of its natural beauty and wildlife,” said Amanda Bolduc, a professional sand sculptor. “Seeing our manatees threatened is devastating and we can’t just sit back and watch them fade away.”

As a way to create awareness, Bolduc created the manatee sand sculpture, along with her son. Her family lives in Lee County and they’ve seen Ian’s destruction firsthand — from close friends losing their homes to the impact on beaches and wildlife.Manatees are a threatened species, with a population estimated between about 7,500 and 10,300. Earlier this year, wildlife officials took unprecedented steps to save starving manatees – feeding them 128,000 pounds of lettuce as a substitute for seagrass. 

Ocean Conservancy’s Efforts During Manatee Awareness Month

Ocean Conservancy is focused on generating solutions to protect manatees and has several initiatives happening statewide during Manatee Awareness Month. 

The first centers around water quality. Algae blooms are fed by nutrients in pollution, such as septic discharge and farm runoff. Ocean Conservancy is leading research this month to complete water-quality tests to better understand the impacts of Hurricane Ian. Additionally, Ocean Conservancy will launch a study to analyze the impact of septic discharge and the benefits of investing in sewer systems to improve water quality.

“As waters warm with climate change, harmful algae blooms are expected to worsen. That’s why we must invest now to prevent pollutants from entering waterways —before the problem becomes even more severe,” Brooker added.

Ocean Conservancy is also engaging high school students in Manatee Awareness Month. On November 12 at the Frost Museum in Miami, students will get a lesson in citizen science –learning how to use an app to track and report sick wildlife they see, with manatees being a focus.


About Ocean Conservancy  

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

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