marine conservation

VIDEO: Hundreds of Manatees Overtake Three Sisters Springs in Florida
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Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida, is widely known by underwater photographers and snorkelers for its resident manatees — but this week, these “mermaids” took over the marine sanctuary by storm.

According to USA Today, roughly 300 manatees huddled together in Three Sisters Springs on Monday. This massive aggregation resulted in a one-acre closure of the springs, USA Today reported, but the area has since been reopened until the manatees return during the next tidal change.

A migratory species, West Indian Manatees spend the winter months in shallow, slow-moving, Florida waters — including estuaries, canals, rivers and coastal areas — and they are known to travel to Three Sisters Springs annually during high tides.
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On Jan. 7, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal for a change in classification of the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. According to the FWS website, this classification “will not affect federal protections currently afforded by the ESA,” and said that conservation efforts to fully recover manatee populations will continue.

“It is probably safe to say that Florida’s manatee population is in recovery,” says Miles Saunders, Media Relations and Marketing Specialist for Visit Citrus. “Last year’s statewide synoptic survey reported 6,063 manatees in Florida. Contrast that to the first year of that survey in 1991 when there were 1,267. This January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Joyce Kleen reported 1,042 manatees in Kings Bay and the Homosassa River alone.”

Though this is not the largest manatee aggregation recorded in Three Sisters, 2016 has been a record-breaking one for manatee populations in Citrus County and King’s Bay. After an aerial survey by Crystal River Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 12, refuge biologist Joyce Kleen reported an all-time record of 1,042 manatees across a survey route spanning from the Crystal River Power Plant to Blue Waters in Homosassa. The previous record was 1,016 manatees in February 2015.
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Take Action To Save Manatees in Crystal River

Underwater Photo Manatee in Springs


Save the Manatee Club

Want to get involved in manatee conservation? Here’s how you can help.

MISSION Protecting manatees in their aquatic habitat to aid survival for future generations

HQ Maitland, Florida YEAR STARTED 1981 CONTACT

PROJECT Though manatees have been reclassified from an endangered to a threatened species, the SMC — founded by Jimmy Buffett — continues to protect the well-being of these marine mammals and their habitats through public awareness, sponsorship of research and rehabilitation, and advocacy for continued protection and regulation of sanctuaries.

Take Action!

1 Go Sightseeing

Need an excuse to go diving or snorkeling in the Sunshine State? We’ve got you covered. Channel your inner citizen scientist by documenting any manatee encounters you’ve had in Florida’s coastal regions. Simply submit a sighting form at with a description of your manatee sighting and any photos to help researchers track the population.

2 Adopt a Manatee

With SMC’s Adopt-a-Manatee program, you’ll enjoy commitment-free parenting for a sea cow in need. Images and histories of real-life manatees in Florida and Alabama that are in need of adoption are available on SMC’s website; in exchange for a $25 fee, you’ll receive an adoption certificate, photo and biography of your new bundle of joy. All adoption funds go to local reseach and conservation efforts.

3 Join the Club

Take action to protect these threatened animals by joining the SMC team. Whether you’re interested in grass-roots activism for government policy change, lending your voice to educate communities about manatee conservation or engaging with attendees at manatee- themed festivals and events, there’s an activism route to suit your interests, and opportunities aren’t limited to East Coast do-gooders.

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Our Florida Reefs 2016 Community Meetings
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The Our Florida Reefs community representatives invite all southeast Florida community members and visitors alike to participate in the Our Florida Reefs community meetings, coming up later this month and in February. 12 meetings will be held in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties to discuss proposed management recommendations for the northernmost section of the Florida Reef Tract. The community members driving this process are eager to share information about these recommendations and are seeking feedback about them.

Our Florida Reefs is a community-based planning process for the future of southeast Florida’s coral reefs. Community representatives have been meeting for a year and a half to learn about southeast Florida’s local reef ecosystem, its threats, and come up with management strategies to better balance the use and protection of this resource.

Now, it’s time to learn more about these draft recommendations and give feedback. You can give feedback by going online to to view, read, and comment on the draft recommendations, or attend one of 12 upcoming community meetings at a location nearest you. The meetings will take place:

Tuesday, January 26-Martin County

Wednesday, January 27-North Palm Beach County

Friday, January 29-South Palm Beach County

Tuesday, February 16-Broward County

Wednesday, February 17-South Miami-Dade County

Thursday, February 18-North Miami-Dade County

Two identical sessions will be held at each location, one from 12-2 p.m. and another from 6-8 p.m. Community Meetings are free and open to the public, all are welcome! For the full list of locations, see the attached flyer or visit . In order for comments to be reviewed or considered, they must be submitted in writing via hard copy forms (available at the meetings) or electronically 24/7 through the website. The website will be open for comment until March 1, 2016.
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Take Action to Help Save Manta Rays with the Manta Trust

Manta Ray Underwater

In search of a worthy cause? Here’s how you can help save manta rays.



Mission: Creating a sustainable future for manta rays through conservation research, awareness and education

HQ: Dorchester, United Kingdom

Founded: 2011


Project: The Manta Trust uses a multidisciplinary approach to conduct worldwide research of manta rays and their habitat to make conservation practices more effective and to educate the public and community.



Using a program called IDtheManta, researchers can identify mantas using the spots on their undersides, which are as unique as fingerprints. You can submit your own images via the Manta Trust website or by emailing them to

Get Your Fins Wet

The Manta Trust has ongoing projects around the globe, including in the Maldives, Palau, Fiji, Thailand, Hawaii and Mexico. Field volunteers collect vital ID information and environmental data but also engage with the community. Field volunteers must be 21 years or older and have an advanced open water certification. Positions are posted on the Manta Trust page.

Get Volun-Techy

Want to get involved, but can’t make the travel happen? You can also volunteer online and help ID rays from the Manta Trust’s database.

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Kurt Lieber Named Sea Hero Of The Year 2015

Kurt Lieber, Scuba Diving‘s 2015 Sea Hero of the Year.

Ocean Defenders Alliance

When Kurt Lieber started California’s Ocean Defenders Alliance in 2000, he could barely find anyone who knew about “ghost gear” — equipment lost or abandoned by commercial fishermen — and its hazardous effects on marine life and divers.

“The Internet still wasn’t a tool widely used to gather or share information,” says Lieber, recipient of Scuba Diving’s November/December Sea Hero award, sponsored by Oris Watches USA. “Marine debris is a dismaying example of the old saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ as far as public
consciousness goes.”

“Fast forward 15 years, and the tide is changing,” Lieber says. “There is now a great deal of scientific information available. The problem is that every year the commercial fishing industry loses a staggering amount of gearlines, nets and traps. Consequently, our work is never done.”

Sea Hero of the Year Kurt Lieber pulls abandoned lobster traps from waters off Palos Verdes, California. Ocean Defenders Alliance divers and deckhands celebrate after removing 2,200 pounds of debris from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California.

Ocean Defenders Alliance

Never done, perhaps, but now maybe just a little bit easier. As Sea Hero of the Year, Lieber will receive a $5,000 cash award on behalf of ODA from Oris, which also awards each of Scuba Diving’s Sea Heroes an Aquis Date watch.

“This is very exciting for me because I’ve grown up reading Scuba Diving,” Lieber says. “It has always inspired me not only to get into diving but also turn that energy into a positive force for change. I’m in awe of each of this year’s Sea Heroes — it humbles me to think that I was selected out of such a dedicated group of individuals.”

ODA combines the efforts of hundreds of dedicated volunteers — more than 200 divers working underwater along with hundreds of topside deckhands — to pull 21,000 pounds of nets from the seas around California to date, along with 290 traps, 28,000 feet of trap lines, and 10,000 pounds of debris. “Computers, batteries, boat masts, rudders, space heaters, metal stairs, refrigerators, the list goes on and on,” Lieber says.

Last year, ODA purchased a used boat and has been working on upgrades and repairs to that vessel, berthed in San Pedro. “As anyone who has ever owned or been around a boat knows: Things are always needing maintenance, repair or replacement,” says Lieber. “We have the manpower and know-how, but we are constantly working to keep our boats running well and fueled up.”

Lieber intends to put the Oris cash award directly into the recently acquired boat in order to launch additional debris-removal expeditions. “This award allows us to travel farther from our home port and get to sites we haven’t been able to reach because of the high costs of fuel, oil and boat maintenance,” he says.

Why does the work of ODA matter so much? “Scientists have estimated that nylon nets can last 650 years in the ocean,” Lieber explains. “A net that is in the water for that long does no one any good. Animals are dying continuously — needlessly — and divers are losing what we all want to see: live fish! The fishing community loses as well because of decreased populations. I’ve been diving since the mid-’70s, and have seen a drastic decline in biodiversity, water quality and wildlife sightings and interactions. Having witnessed this loss firsthand is what drives me to do what I can, in my lifetime, to defend ocean life
and habitats.”

Celebrating and encouraging engaged, committed communities like Ocean Defenders Alliance is at the heart of the Sea Hero awards.

“We are excited to present this award to Ocean Defenders Alliance and its founder, Kurt Lieber,” says V.J. Geronimo, CEO, North America, at Oris Watches USA. “Each year, it’s difficult to single out just one Sea Hero of the Year, when all are doing such important work, from educators who have led the way for decades in assessing worldwide fish populations to videographers shining a spotlight on the work of scientists and volunteers alike to rangers defending the integrity of marine-protected areas and shark habitats. These heroes are real people who inspire everyday divers to get involved in protecting the marine environment, and for that we salute them all.”

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