Environmental groups in Florida warn that an unusually high number of manatee deaths in the first five months of the year, attributed in part to a resurgence of algal blooms that pollute and destroy food sources, could threaten the long-term future of the species.
The 749 deaths registered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as of May 21, it exceeded 637 for all of 2020, the agency said. The total is on track to exceed the high of 804, set in 2018.
The disappearance of substantial areas of seagrass, the favorite food source of slow-moving aquatic mammals, has led to starvation. The situation has been aggravated by the reappearance of the bluish green algae blooms and phytoplankton blooms in Florida waterways.
Offshore, the recent leakage and discharge of toxic sewage into Tampa Bay from the abandoned Piney Point fertilizer plant and the return of the red tide algae threat it has poisoned waters. FWC says 12 manatee deaths so far this year were confirmed or suspected red tide bloomsBut the true figure could be much higher because not all dead manatees are necropsied.
In the 150-mile Indian River Lagoon, an inland estuary that up to a third of the estimated 7,500 remaining manatees visit each year, 58% of seagrass has disappeared since 2009, according to the St Johns River Water Management District.
The agency says that too much nutrient runoff, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous, is directly killing seagrasses or forming flowers that block sunlight.
“The vast majority of the 80,000 acres of seagrass within the Indian River Lagoon have been lost due to an ongoing series of harmful algal blooms, which in turn have been caused by decades of human nutrient pollution from sewage and water. runoff that continues unabated to this day, ”Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and co-founder of Save the manateesaid in an editorial published by the Tampa Bay Times.
Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) expressed concern about a march study that showed traces of pesticides in more than 55% of the manatees analyzed.
“Our beloved plump sea cows are dodging boat bumps, reeling from the red tide and starving in the Indian River Lagoon due to water contamination,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director of the CBD. “It’s heartbreaking to add chronic glyphosate exposure to the list of factors that threaten manatee survival.
Graham said the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) “dropped the ball” in 2019, when change the conservation status of manatees from endangered to threatened.
“They listened to anti-manatee groups and prematurely removed manatees from the endangered species list over the objections of scientists and thousands of Americans who understood that the future of manatees was not secure but could actually get worse. a lot, ”he said.
The FWS, he said, “should admit its mistake and re-list the manatee as an endangered species.”
Two members of Congress, Democrat Stephanie Murphy and Republican Brian Mast, have proposed legislation to increase federal funding for the protection of the manatee.
TO blunt editorial in the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month blamed the surge in manatee deaths on “disregard for the environment” among Florida politicians and attacked former Gov. Rick Scott, now a United States senator, for cutting environmental budgets when in the office.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism