News

Summer Means It’s Time To Go “Fertilizer-Free For Manatees” To Protect Florida’s Waterways

A manatee on top of algae that is smothering the spring and grasses underneath. ©David Schrichte
A manatee on top of algae that is smothering the spring and grasses underneath. ©David Schrichte

Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms in both coastal and inland waters.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 4, 2024
Contact: media@savethemanatee.org, 407-539-0990

LONGWOOD, FL— Summer is here, and Save the Manatee® Club is excited to share our Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™ campaign. The campaign aims to underscore that while addressing the overall problem requires a multifaceted approach, the actions of each Florida resident can make a big difference for the health of our waterways.

Starting June 1 and running through September 30, this initiative aims to encourage Florida residents to take a pledge to be fertilizer-free, thereby reducing their contribution to nutrient pollution in the state’s waterways.

An algae bloom. © Save the Manatee Club

What is Nutrient Pollution?

Nutrient pollution refers to the presence of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, in water bodies. These nutrients often come from agricultural runoff, wastewater, and the use of fertilizers on lawns and landscapes. While nutrients are essential for plant growth, an overabundance can lead to significant environmental problems.

How Does Nutrient Pollution Cause Harm?

Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in both coastal and inland waters. The Indian River Lagoon, a critical habitat for manatees, has been particularly affected, with devastating algal blooms causing the loss of native seagrass. Seagrass is essential for manatees, as it is their primary food source. When seagrass is lost, manatees are at risk of starvation. Tragically, this has resulted in the starvation and death of numerous imperiled manatees since 2020.

Furthermore, the occurrence of red tide, a natural phenomenon characterized by the proliferation of toxic algae, can be exacerbated by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs from human sources such as fertilizer and wastewater. Red tide not only affects marine life but can also cause respiratory issues in humans and economic losses for coastal communities.

In pledging to be Fertilizer-Free for Manatees, Floridians commit to:

  • Avoid fertilizer use on lawns and landscapes 
  • Conserve water by irrigating only when necessary 
  • Keep grass clipping out of streets, waterbodies, and swales 
  • Learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping to protect waterway

“Human nutrient pollution from various sources has been a major driver of the harmful algal blooms that have led to a catastrophic number of manatee deaths in recent years,” said Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “The Fertilizer-Free for Manatees campaign aims to educate the public about how their individual actions, which may seem small, can have a cumulative healing effect on the overall health of our Florida waterways. Together, we can all take steps at home to protect imperiled manatees and their essential habitat.”

For more information on the “Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™” campaign and how you can get involved, please visit fertilizerfree.org.

###

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with late former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

More Recent News

Manatees 2940

Heading Out On The Water? Watch For Manatees.

As National Safe Boating Week approaches, Save the Manatee Club is urging boaters to respect and protect the defenseless manatees that inhabit the waterways.

Father's Day 2024

For The Dad By Your Side Through Every Tide

Looking for a perfect gift to show your appreciation this Father’s Day? Look no further than a manatee from Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee® program.

Manatees are herbivores, feeding on both marine and freshwater aquatic vegetation such as seagrass and other submerged, floating, and emergent plants.

Seagrass Awareness Month Brings Critical Food Source for Manatees to Center Stage

March is Seagrass Awareness Month, and there has never been a more critical time to call for everyone to contribute to the health of these vital ecosystems.