Celtics co-owner donates $2 million in an effort to protect Florida manatees

Manatees Swimming – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Thierry Eidenweil

A co-owner of the Boston Celtics is donating a whopping $2 million toward protecting Florida’s manatees and their habitats following two devastating seasons of record-breaking manatee mortalities throughout the state.

The Fox Rock Foundation will give $1 million each to the nonprofits Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Save the Manatee Club, the organizations announced on Tuesday. The foundation is a family charity run by Rob Hale, better known as the Celtics co-owner, and his wife, Karen. The Hales own a home in Naples.

“Our family feels called to manatee conservation not only because they are intelligent, curious creatures, but also because of the critical role they play in aquatic ecosystems,” Karen Hale said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with both of these incredible organizations that are working tirelessly to protect manatees and improve the health of our oceans and other waterways.”

According to the news release, the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida plans to use the money to fund efforts to expand current projects that are working on restoring the Indian River Lagoon’s overall state by replanting over eight acres of vegetation at six lagoon sites with better water quality. 

The money will be used to build a forever endowment, which will assist programs to maintain, repair, and restore essential manatee habitats in the long and near term, according to the Save the Manatee Club.

In 2021, a record number of 1,100 manatees died primarily due to starvation because water pollution from septic tank, agricultural, urban runoff, and other sources has diminished their food source for the winter along Florida’s east coast, especially in the Indian River Lagoon that stretches from Canaveral to down south.

So far this year, Florida officials have confirmed an additional 500 manatee deaths, compared with over 700 last year during the same time. Both surpass the five-year average of about 350 manatee deaths in the time period.

According to the state wildlife commission, estimates figure the manatee’s wild population is as low as 7,520.

Manatees are gentle round-tailed giants, commonly known as sea cows, and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds (550 kilograms). They can live up to 65 years or so. Manatees are the Sunshine State’s official state marine mammal and are closely related to elephants. 

Officials who see a dying or distressed manatee are recommended to call the FWC hotline at 888-404-3922.

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