Lettuce test project launched to help feed starving Florida manatees

The clock is ticking to save Florida’s manatees.

Alga blooms like those occurring in the Indian River Lagoon kill massive amounts of seagrass, leaving the animals starving.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Power and Light and other partners will serve lettuce at FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center in Brevard County to nourish the starving creatures.

"The manatee rescue and rehabilitation partnership is working around the clock to try and support every need out there."

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SeaWorld Orlando’s Jon Peterson said bulk lettuce, like that served in restaurants, will be used to feed the manatees. Only trained and approved servers will be allowed to feed them.

Animal groups like Bear Warriors United are concerned their efforts have been in vain.

"The food needs to be in the water why aren’t they giving this food to the manatees now? What are they waiting for?" said Katrina Shadix of the group.

"The same agencies are now saying they are not going to accept the romaine lettuce donations that we have collected all week long," she added. 

FWC said they are exploring options from local farms and other food distributors to collect more lettuce.

They want well-meaning manatee lovers to keep their distance.

"Getting around manatees you can be causing more harm than help. If you see them watch them from a distance. If you see trash in the water pick it up," said Peterson.

FWC says they are working to launch the project as soon as possible. The manatees' response to the test feeding will decide how long the project goes. 

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