Emoji – “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication.”
But for veterinarians and staff at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, Emoji was so much more.
Emoji was a two-week old orphaned Florida manatee that was found 15 pounds underweight when Zoo staff rescued him separated from his mother in October. Despite being underweight, Emoji was found with a full belly. Unfortunately, it was plastic bags and debris that filled its stomach, while other trash protruded out the back side of Emoji’s digestive system.
The film crew records an exciting moment on the Miss Britt II.
Last week, two filmmakers and I went to South Florida to document how ocean acidification can touch communities, like Miami’s, that don’t depend heavily on shellfish harvests. Known for its marine life, beaches, coral reefs and sunny weather, Miami and much of Florida rely on these natural assets to drive the local fishing and tourist industry. Coral reefs are the key link, because they provide habitat for vast numbers of fish—including many of the sport fish that make Florida’s charter fishing industry a must-visit for thousands of tourists each year.
Sea turtles have a strong sense of place—when it’s time to nest, they return to the same beach where they hatched decades before. Many residents of the Gulf Coast share that same sense of place (my own family has lived in Louisiana for more than ten generations!)
That’s why sea turtles are a great mascot for the Gulf Coast. It’s also why Ocean Conservancy’s new video outlining a vision for a healthy Gulf is told from the perspective of a loggerhead sea turtle. In honor of the star of our video, here are five things that sea turtles need to survive and thrive.
As the state representative for the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade County, there are few things more important to our well-being than the health of our unique marine environment. We are home to the Everglades, the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world and the only living barrier reef in the continental United States. Since I took office, I have made it a priority to do everything I can to help raise awareness about our water issues in Tallahassee and we’ve made great progress in the last four years when it comes to improving water quality.
Despite this progress, there are still many stressors facing Florida’s oceans and ocean acidification (OA) is a particularly significant threat. Its impacts on our marine ecosystems are less visible so it has not been as widely discussed as other environmental threats, but that is starting to change, and I am excited to help bring further awareness to this issue. Side effects of acidification like decreases in coral reproduction, growth and calcification as well as slower shellfish growth mean that this is not an issue we can afford to ignore. Already, other fisheries across the country are seeing serious economic impacts from OA and if it continues unchecked, the impacts to Florida businesses and residents could be equally devastating.
Invasive lionfish are a massive problem that requires creative solutions. One of the most popular approaches to lionfish management is the lionfish derby: An all-day fishing competition where teams collect as many lionfish as possible to compete for prizes. Often, the events bring together local communities in the evening to learn about (and snack on!) lionfish.
In May, Ocean Conservancy was thrilled to help sponsor the 2016 Sebastian Lionfish Fest hosted by Indian River County, Florida. I sat down with Kendra Cope, Indian River County’s coastal environmental specialist and sea turtle coordinator, to learn more about her efforts.
Bright lights, shops bursting with souvenirs, the laughter of children, the smell of caramel popcorn complete with sunlight sparking rays off the emerald saltwater as America’s largest charter boat fishing fleet bobs in the marina—the “world’s luckiest fishing village” is open for business.