Jimmy Buffett helped lead manatee protection in Florida

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Jimmy Buffett co-founded the Save the Manatee Club, an organization whose mission is to protect the imperiled sea cows and their habitat.

Buffett remained co-chair and an avid group supporter for his entire life.

In 1981, Buffett performed a concert while Bob Graham, Florida’s Governor at the time, was in the audience.

“And as they got talking, as I understand it, Jimmy raised the issue of his concern for manatees and their future,” said Pat Rose, the executive director for the Save the Manatee Club.

At the time, less than 1,000 manatees were left throughout Florida’s environment.

“That turned into an opportunity where they got together, and the governor appointed Jimmy as the chairman of a new committee called the Save the Manatee committee,” said Rose.

That’s how he met Rose, whom Graham appointed as the committee’s scientific advisor.

“It was all business right from the beginning because there was so many things that needed to be done right away,” said Rose.

Rose explained to WINK News that Buffett wasn’t a figurehead. He took an active role in the organization. Buffett came up with the idea for the manatee license plate and the Adopt-A-Manate program.

Since the organization’s founding, the manatee population has grown to 8,000.

So far, in 2023, 72 manatees have died resulting from a watercraft collision. More than 1,500 were lost over the last two years as water quality has declined and sea grass has disappeared. These were both concerning topics for Buffett.

WINK News checked on the manatees trapped behind water control structures in Whiskey Creek on Monday. Water levels have dropped, which makes it more difficult for the sea cows to get out. Neighbors said Florida Fish and Wildlife will examine the area on Wednesday.

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