Manatee video shines light on plastic pollution

A video of a manatee is getting a lot of attention online, and not for good reasons. The calf is seen chewing on a large piece of plastic. 

Fortunately, a local boater spotted it in time and helped pull the trash from the manatee's mouth. He hopes his video reminds everyone how important it is to keep trash in trashcans and out of the water. 

The videos posted on the See Through Canoe’s Facebook page are often breathtaking, mesmerizing, or just plain cute. However, a sight on a recent trip was a little more distressing 

"I almost died when I saw it chomping on that plastic," said Michael McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe.

The video, shot near Hernando Beach, shows a manatee calf with a long piece of plastic in his mouth, seemingly trying to eat it.

"I saw how fast he was eating and I went, ‘you've got to put the camera down,”" McCarthy said. "And, I figured I needed to devote all my attention to the task at hand."

McCarthy says it took 20 minutes pull the plastic free. 

"If he'd have eaten that plastic before I got that away from him, I couldn't have lived with that very easily," McCarthy said.

It's another reminder of how dangerous and deadly plastic can be to marine life. You might remember two years ago, a manatee named Emoji was brought to Lowry Park Zoo for rehabilitation. Among other health problems, the calf had a stomach full of plastic bags and debris. Sadly, Emoji didn't survive. 

There have been 741 recorded manatee deaths in 2018, the highest number in five years. While watercrafts and red tide are blamed for the majority of mortalities, plastic tossed in the water only makes a bad situation worse, especially, for mammals with intestines over 100 feet long.

"It's not just sea turtles out there getting their necks stuck in a six-pack," McCarthy said. "It could be a something as cute or simple as a manatee."

While little "Tater Tot" as McCarthy calls him, happily swam on, he sees this as an important opportunity to send a message.

"Just because it's not your trash in the water doesn't mean you can't take a second out of your busy life to pick that trash up and throw it in a boat or what have you or take it to the trash can," McCarthy said. "If you get it first, you could save something."

FWC encourages boaters to secure loose items like plastic bags and fishing line in containers with lids, so they don't blow into the water, and to pick up any plastic you see. 

If you ever witness a manatee in distress, FWC urges you to contact them right away so they can send someone to help.