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Sculpture in Siesta Key highlights Manatee Awareness Month

The recent threat to sea grass along the Florida coast was the inspiration behind the sand sculpture.

SIESTA KEY, Fla. — November marks the start of Manatee Awareness Month.

To highlight the need to protect Florida's sea cows, Ocean Conservancy unveiled a "Florida Loves Manatees" sand sculpture in Siesta Key, a news release announced.

Hurricane Ian stirred up the southwest coast of Florida, contributing to red tide outbreaks in Sarasota and Charlotte counties. The threat of red tide is yet another blow to the manatee population as the algae bloom kills seagrass, which makes up a manatee's diet.

"Florida is at a crossroads, with a record number of manatees dying,” Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Florida Conservation Jon Paul "J.P." Brooker said in a news release. "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."

RELATED: 3 manatees return to Florida after completing rehabilitation at the Columbus Zoo

Amanda Bolduc, a professional sand sculptor, created the manatee sand sculpture. Her family lives in Lee County and has seen the destruction from Hurricane Ian firsthand. She created to sculpture to bring awareness, according to the news release.

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

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
Professional sand sculptor Amanda Bolduc created the "Florida Loves Manatees" sand sculpture in Siesta Key.

Ocean Conservancy is working on ways to protect manatees during Manatees Awareness Month with a focus on water quality. Throughout the year, the organization focuses on ocean protection from the many challenges it faces.

RELATED: Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center is back on November 1!

A record number of 1,101 manatees were confirmed dead in 2021 — an all-time high — largely attributed to a lack of seagrass food due to pollution. Conservation officials started the year throwing thousands of pounds of lettuce into the water along the state's east coast and it appeared to be a success.

Manatees are protected by state and federal law, making it illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy, or molest manatees, according to the FWC. Violations range from fines up to $500 and/or 60 days imprisonment at the state level and fines up to $100,000 and/or a year in prison at the federal level.

Anyone who sees a manatee appearing to be injured or deceased is asked to call the FWC's wildlife alert hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

RELATED: International Manatee Day: What needs to be done to save the species

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