Bay Area: Manatee feeding program to wind down as temps warm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The experimental program that has fed tons of lettuce to starving manatees in Florida will begin to wind down as the weather warms, wildlife officials said Wednesday.

The feeding program at a power plant on Florida’s east coast so far has provided the slow-moving marine mammals with more than 128,000 pounds (58,000 kilograms) of food financed almost entirely by donations from across the U.S. and beyond.

The federal-state effort is aimed at preventing, as much as possible, another die-off of manatees like Florida saw in 2021. Last year, more than 1,100 manatees died — far above the five-year average of about 202 annual deaths — mostly of starvation because their favored seagrass source of food is disappearing due to water pollution.