The late music legend co-founded the Save the Manatee Club in 1981.
The late, great Jimmy Buffett was many things: a musician, a businessman, a father, a husband, a brother, a sailor, an activist, and a friend. And though it’s often forgotten, Buffett was also a fierce advocate for manatees, and played a vital role in saving them.
Born in Mississippi and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Buffett spent the majority of his adult life in Florida. It was there he first learned of manatees and the threats they face at the hands of humans. Buffett was amongst the first people to voice his concern for these peaceful creatures.
In 1981, Florida was home to less than 1,000 manatees. That year then-governor Bob Graham happened to attend a Jimmy Buffett concert with his family. Graham and Buffett were chatting backstage when the singer brought up the plight of the manatee.
“And as they got talking, as I understand it, Jimmy raised the issue of his concern for manatees and their future,” Pat Rose, the executive director for the Save the Manatee Club, told WINK News. “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.”
Buffett took an active role in the organization he co-founded. In fact, it was the “Margaritaville” singer who came up with the idea for the famous manatee license plate and the Adopt-A-Manatee program.
“Jimmy didn’t merely lend his name to the cause; he rolled up his sleeves and took action. He starred in public service announcements, used his concerts to raise funds and awareness, and directed resources toward essential waterway signs to protect manatees from speeding boats,” Save the Manatee Club wrote in a tribute to the singer. “In 1984, he conceived the Adopt-A-Manatee program, a groundbreaking initiative that engaged the public and provided crucial funds for manatee conservation. The program not only saved manatees but also educated and inspired countless individuals.”
Since the organization’s founding, the manatee population has grown to 8,000.
“His legacy will forever resonate in the gentle currents of Florida’s waters, where manatees continue to thrive, thanks to his unwavering dedication and love,” the club’s tribute concluded. “Jimmy, your song may have ended, but your conservation symphony will play on in the hearts of those you inspired.”
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