Manatees are large, aquatic marine animals that feed mostly on water plants in tropical seas. Sometimes called “sea cows,” the average adult manatee is ten feet long, weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds, and can live to be 60 years old or older. Manatees are a migratory species; the West Indian manatee ranges along the North American east coast from Florida to Brazil.
Impacts from human activity, cold stress and red tide pose challenges to this large, peaceful mammal, but loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees. Prior to 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified manatees as an endangered species. They are now classified as threatened, and they are listed as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are currently fewer than 6,000 manatees in the U.S.
As a natural extension of their commitment to environmental protection and stewardship, Florida Power & Light (FPL) built the Manatee Lagoon on their five-acre site at the Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center near West Palm Beach. FPL designed the lagoon next to their power plant as part of a state certification permit requiring a public viewing venue for manatees, but went above and beyond the state’s regulatory requirements.
The anchor of the site is a two-story building with observation decks for unparalleled viewing, as well as an educational facility for visitors. The 16,000-square-foot center features engaging, hands-on exhibits where guests can learn about these amazing, but threatened creatures, as well as the natural wonders of the surrounding Lake Worth Lagoon. On cold weather days, the facility’s observation deck is an ideal spot to watch the manatees basking in the warm water outflows from the Energy Center. Year-round, the facility offers tours, lectures, marine-themed art classes for kids, programs for school trips, and other educational events to raise awareness about marine conservation. Since its inception, the Manatee Lagoon has evolved into a popular South Florida attraction, hosting 125,000 visitors per year.
“It was important to get Manatee Lagoon certified with WHC because we wanted to highlight our commitment to conservation through education programs and outreach opportunities,” said Brittany DiLoreto, Communication Specialist at FPL. “Our mission at Manatee Lagoon is to educate the community about manatees and Lake Worth Lagoon, and to inspire future generations to preserve and protect Florida’s environment. WHC certification supports this mission.”
Manatee Lagoon’s educational programs have earned the facility gold status with WHC Conservation Certification® and in 2019, Manatee Lagoon was recognized with the Discover the Palm Beaches David Burke Partner of the Year Award in the non-accommodations category.
|Site Name:||Manatee Lagoon - an FPL Eco-Discovery Center|
|Categories:||Awareness and Community Engagement, Education & Awareness, Mammals, Marine Intertidal, Species of Concern|
|Company Name:||Florida Power & Light|
|Site Location:||West Palm Beach, Florida|
|Project Types:||Awareness and Engagement, Mammals, Marine Intertidal, Species of Concern|
|WHC Index Link:||Search for project|