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Pollution Killing Manatees at Record Pace


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13 November 2013, 11:27 AM
Yet, industry group seeks to removed endangered species status
The manatee deaths have been linked to toxic algae outbreaks.
(David Hinkel / U.S. FWS)

I’m sad to report that 2013 has become the deadliest year ever for Florida’s endangered manatees.

So far this year, 769 manatees have died (Jan. 1 through Oct. 29), the largest annual manatee die-off in Florida since record-keeping began, according to the Save the Manatee Club.

“That means more than 15 percent of the estimated population of about 5,000 has already been killed, and as the year goes on the total will continue to climb,” environmental reporter Craig Pittman wrote in the Tampa Bay Times.

Boat collisions are usually the main killer of these mellow sea cows, who float and graze in Florida’s sea grass beds. But this year, boat collisions are down.

This year, the biggest manatee die-offs on Florida’s east and west coasts are linked to algae outbreaks, which are worsened by sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff—the subject of our continuing legal fight against polluters. As regular readers of this blog know, we have been working since 2009 to enforce legal limits on these pollutants, which are wrecking Florida’s famed aquatic ecosystems as well as killing wildlife.

Florida regulators are doing the bidding of polluter-lobbyists, and environmental disasters like the record manatee deaths are the sad result. Instead of stepping in to enforce the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has backed off. We are in court trying to change that.

A toxic red tide bloom in southwest Florida killed a record 276 manatees along Florida’s west coast near Fort Myers. On Florida’s east coast, in the amazingly biodiverse Indian River Lagoon east of Orlando, pollution-fueled algae outbreaks kept breaking out and then hundreds of dead fish, dolphins, and pelicans began turning up, along with more than 100 dead manatees.

Among the 123 dead manatees found this year were stillborn, newborn or young calves less than 5 feet in length, which sets another annual record for this category, Dr. Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee Club’s science and conservation director, told reporters.

Forty-nine of the small, dead manatees were found in Brevard County, north of Vero Beach. That’s at the epicenter of a massive sea grass die off which scientists say is linked to pollution.

Indian River Lagoon in Florida. (U.S. FWS)The Indian River Lagoon has lost 47,000 acres of sea grass since 2010. (U.S. FWS)

The Indian River Lagoon has lost 47,000 acres of sea grass since 2010, which, as the Tampa Bay Times noted, “one scientist compared to losing an entire rainforest in one fell swoop.”

When scientists performed necropsies on the manatees, they found that their stomachs contained a reddish seaweed they don’t normally eat—their normal sea grass food source was wiped out.

The last big Florida manatee mortality event happened in 2010, and that year’s culprit was cold temperatures. This year’s record-breaking manatee mortality, Save the Manatee’s Dr. Tripp told reporters, “is a loud and clear signal that our waterways are in trouble.”

Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the club, added: “What we put into our waters, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers, together with how we use our waterways, all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species. We must be better stewards of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe consequences going forward.”

Well said.

Last year, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that seeks to strip protections from manatees by removing them from the list of endangered species and instead list them as merely “threatened.”

We thought the petition was ludicrous when we saw it last year. If we needed proof to show just how ludicrous, sadly, we have it now.

Manatee Mortality
(Data from Tampa Bay Times)

Year Deaths
2003 380
2004 276
2005 396
2006 417
2007 317
2008 337
2009 429
2010 766
2011 453
2012 392
  2013 * 769

* Through Oct. 30.

Citizens of Florida and this nation should be outraged that a problem so simple to solve is being ignored or fought by those in power. In this day and time there are no excuses for these types of environmental disasters and atrocities. CLEAN these areas up and make these areas and mammals safe for future generations to enjoy!

If the petition is ludicrous, it's not PLF's fault but rather the agency's. Our petition simply relies on the Service's own review determining that downlisting would be appropriate. Also, our petition would not "strip" the manatees of protection. In fact, even if the manatee is downlisted, there will be no immediate change to the degree of protection it receives under the ESA. And any decision by the Service to lessen ESA protections for the manatee would of course be subject to judicial review.

I don't understand the defensive posture of this comment. What difference does it make who's fault it is? And perhaps PLF should scrutinize certain judgments made by the "agency." Furthermore, why downlist them at all at this point?

Only stories that receive massive publicity seem to effect significant change. Case in point are the silly political news stories repeated so often that everyone knows them, so getting the word out about these gentle creatures is something we can all do! I'm thankful for the comments that everyone has contributed because even if we don't all have the same ideas and solutions, at least we care enough to read and act. Let's be happy that most people are compassionate and will help to change things to make this a better world.

If all the nations could be persuaded to safely recycle 100% of their trash, garbage, junk, smoke and fumes, the global ocean would heal itself and the manatees could live.

This is just another example of man's irresponsible/destructive influence on our planet.
Everyday, I read about another animal killed or dying at the hands of the human species.
The number of "humans" determined to rid the planet of these fellow beings seems to be increasing faster than we can do anything about. These innocent "fellow travelers" deserve better. It's up to us, who can and are able to rid our legislature of those who chose to
ignore the suffering of animals.

We should be content to enjoy the wonderful diversity of life on this planet without some people trying to manipulate things. We should preserve not destroy the beauty that is all around us. The manatees should be actively protected from those who only care about the bottom line and nothing about other people or the environment.

Air conditioning changed the people who lived in Florida. My family, there from just after the Civil War, moved to CA w/ all the destructive building going on. The swamp I lived in was drained and now there is a trashy suburb w/ streets, bathrooms, etc. We call it development. There's no room for animals except our kind. Give our kind 500 more years and we'll have another great extinction.

I hope these innocent creatures will be protected from the carelessness of man.

I hope these innocent creatures will be protected from the carelessness of man.

The answers for solving this problem are clear & unmistakeable. The rub comes in when we seek to apply the solutions, which are expensive & intrude into the lives of everyone living in the IRL watershed.
A massive, multi-staged upgrade to municipal sewers hooked to tertiary treatment sewage treatment plants for all in the upper reaches of the Lagoon.There must be no difference in the quality of the ground water flowing into the Lagoon & the rain that falls directly into it from the sky. The ecosystem in the Lagoon is overburdened by nutrients, it must be allowed to recover.

This is one of the more disgusting destructions of our natual creatures, of the many that we continue reading about.
The number of "humans" who are bound and determined to rid the planet of our fellow beings seems to be increasing faster than we can do anything about it. These innocent 'fellow travellers" deserve better. It's up to us, who care, to rid our legislature of those who are so inured to the loss of our animal species, as to ignore the disappearance and suffering of those species.

This is just horrible, like usual. Can't people (with money/power/influence/companies/politicians) care about something and work to change it for the better for all, esp. the helpless? Maybe before it gets to be tragic. Unbelievable that this world has continued to r-evolve!

This is just horrible, like usual. Can't people (with money/power/influence/companies/politicians) care about something and work to change it for the better for all, esp. the helpless? Maybe before it gets to be tragic. Unbelievable that this world has continued to r-evolve!

.......

Show respect! These animals are here for a reson -- don't manipulate or spoil nature

Show respect! These animals are here for a reason - don't manipulate or spoil nature

Some of these issues can be easily stopped. Climate change is harder to control. However, pollution CAN be! Let's be more responsible with trash and cleaning up our waters. Teach your children and grandchildren to be responsible with your garbage. Hold companies like BP responsible.

I also blame the Florida leaders as they are charged with PROTECTING the manatee in the US. Do something for these gentle beasts and protect their habitat, water speed from boats etc. It"s YOUR JOB!

More attention to the People of the US and the ANIMALS of the US instead of constant war over OIL! Use less plastic everywhere and you will have more oil people! Recycle!!!

I am so very ashamed of us human beings!!! We seem to have nothing in mind but a "quick buck" and "greed" as usual.

The leaders in Florida and the people in Florida seem to be concentrating on "me", 'me, "me". There is no concept of the needs and RIGHTS of other species. There is no concept of care about waste and garbage disposal OR how the beautification of landscapes can result in a poisoning of Florida's waters!!!

I am so embarrassed by your behavior!!! RDLeonard

PROTECTION ON MANATES, DON'T KILL THEM. STOP THIS BARBARY...

We are the stewarts of our environment. We must stop pollution of our God giving earth and protect all of God's creations.

When the earth is ravaged,
And the animals are dying,
a new tribe of people
shall come unto the earth
from many colors, creeds and classes
and who by their actions and deeds
shall make the earth green again.
They shall be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.
Hopi Prophecy

I hope this is true.

Martin Luther King said Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

The SOLUTION to this planets dying is for HUMANS to STOP OVER-BREEDING. As long as HUMANS continue to breed and produce more people than this planet can support, the rest of the species on this planet will eventually be extirpated, unless, of course, HUMANS start a nuclear war.

I agree with you!

Wow what a way off comment this is. This is corporate buy off for polluting industries. Have you seen a population explosion in Florida? It's simply that, quit diverting attention from the article and the real problem.

Mortified "almost" beyond words. But one thing CAN be said: Scott decimated the strength and integrity of FLDEP, so he can now add "record manatee death toll" in with the rest of his failures.

I spent summer with grandparents in Bradenton, on the Manatee River. It was always a thrill to see a Manatee or two in the river, as we crossed over the bridge to downtown. This is just another piece of news that has torn me up this week. A group of scientist whose sole purpose is to keep track of specie disappearance recently gave testimony that we are losing land water and air species faster than ever before in the history of scientific study.. They gave this testimony because they stated they were truly frightened at the rate of specie disappearance.

Further, each specie interacts within its environment in ways that are helpful that we should be aware of: Some 'til' the soil, turning it and fertilizing it with its own castoffs and the feces of other animals, and also returns nutrients to the soil by turning decaying leaves and other things. Earth worms, prarie dogs, the hooves of cattle, every creature has a way of enriching the earth. The plant life around streams, rivers and oceans help clean natural pollutants. Bees and other insects pollenate everything that flowers-encluding all our plant food supply items. Bees are dying off, and this has been reported for several years now and all around the world.........but mostly HERE because of the fertilizer and insecticides used more here than in other areas of the world, for farming.

Until we have the sense, awareness that we ARE the Stewards of the Earth and elect people who will work to start taking the drastic action to correct the mess we have made, our children will live to see a world where WATER is the most expensive commodity; grocery prices will be sky high, the rivers, lakes and oceans will be too poisonous to wade in, much less swim in. Ask those along the Chesapeake Bay and up the North East Coast to Maine how their fishing is doing this year, are there crabs, oysters and the expected seafood harvest this year?

Read reports on the pollution of plastics in our oceans. Recently, a video was taken on the oceans showing miles and miles of debris from the Tsunami in Japan AND pieces of the nuclear power plant that had a melt down where the Tsunami hit. There was an absence unheard of before in the Pacific of sea birds, sea life and fish by those making the trip from Australia to Japan, and other ports, they had never seen before on previous trips on that route. The planet is being killed.

Even if you don't accept there is a drastic change in the climate taking place, it is hard to overlook the hard evidence of pollution and the dying plants and species.

Just try to keep the Manatees alive until climate change wipes out the Florida land mass. Maybe then they will have an opportunity to thrive.

You aren't serious ? The manatees will be long gone before that happens.

When I read some of the ridiculous responses that people provide it makes me want to hurl!
Seriously, get rid of the manatee so that the sea grass can increase? Are people seriously that ignorant in the U.S.!?
Poor Janet who lives off security and can't give $5 dollars to a real cause!
This is the problem.....the sea grass is not disappearing because of Manatee's...it's the POLLUTION! First it affects the wildlife and then we start getting the adverse effects! More fisheries? You think that's the answer? What a moron! You must be one of those bastards that loves to encourage the overfishing which in turn is causing devastation! Well I hope you continue to fish and eat it all up those fish that more than likely are radiation exposed from the even increasing Japanese waters!! (Just in case you did not know the amount of toxic pollution coming out of the nuclear factories is massive!)

I'm tired of morons populating this earth. They don't even realize just how much chaos we are raising and when we finally come to realize, it will be too late.
Our waters will be so contaminated and our deserts will be ever increasing and the food supply will be extremely limited. Guess what...all those big wigs from companies that have been damaging the enviornment will be okay because they and their families will be in million dollar bunkers, while all the rest of the ignorant people that didn't care about one species because it seemed so invaluable will be trying to eat each other to stay alive!

Keep taking these serious issues as a joke people!

I agree there are too many buffoons making stupid comments about the seriousness of this and the real causes, like this is a big joke. Or maybe it is the cruel and sellfish people making money off their irresponsible
Policies and practices making the stupid comments

"Florida regulators are doing the bidding of polluter-lobbyists, and environmental disasters like the record manatee deaths are the sad result. Instead of stepping in to enforce the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has backed off. We are in court trying to change that."
Florida must elect environmental friendly regulators and Politicians. Rick Scott and the GOTP must be tossed out account their only interest is lining their Big Business Cronies pockets. Who could care less about the Environment.

I hate to see these lovely sea creatures dying off from something like pollution that could be controlled. I have swam with the manatees in Florida and they are gentle giants. The environmental agency has a obligation to the people of this country to protect the wildlife but they aren't stepping up to the plate. Too much of the country is controlled by the rich and greedy. This needs to change.

One obvious problem not addressed here is the fact that people love to plant non-native plants in their yards (and especially their golf courses). This creates a huge waste of water, nevermind the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that are leeching into the diminished natural water supplies. Naturalize your yards--if your subdivisions will allow it-- a BIG IF!!

Great comment. If we really want to help the environment here in Florida, we would limit the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Maybe it would help to do research into a grass that could be sustained without so much of that. Also, STOP allowing herbicides at all!!!Golf courses and high end housing developments spend millions to chemically green up their lawns and to kill pests and weeds along with everything else. Everyone wants to have a green lawn, but is it worth it? Let's stop blaming population and start requiring native plants and grasses. No they aren't as manicured looking, but they have their own beauty and add to the environment.

10 years. . . Manatee Mortality, the madness, is still going on. More money is the solution? The only solution? Some of us are living on Social Security, for heaven's sake!

No one said you personally have to give money. Talk to friends, to relatives, acquaintances, your local lawmakers. Some of them can afford to spend a few dollars on wildlife that makes Florida so beautiful and appealing to visitors. And if EVERYONE gave just ONE DOLLAR, just ONE, enough money would be gathered to stop the powers that be from listening to the lobbyists. Think about it.

They are a non native species. Move them back or let them fend for themselves. as for the pollutants, clean that shit up. Oh ya the Manatee feeds on the disappearing seagrass maybe if there were less manatees we would have more seagrass and better fisheries

Another idiotic comment

For the idiot who left the message about "if there were less (fewer is the grammatical way to say this..) manatees," etc., Do you have any concept of nature? If the animals die off because of our greed and stupidity, we won't have any chance to survive. Everything depends on other things in the chain of life. Get with it.

Could you be more stupid and uninformed? It doesn't seem likely.

As a species we humans are the most destructive and greed reden...we are an evolutionary experiment gone bad...Manatees trump human needs in this situation!

This is so wrong. Stop polluting these precious waters with which Florida is so abundantly blessed, and learn to live with respectful consideration of the Rest of Life, including the benign and peaceful, keystone, Manatees!

I have read so many of these posts, and they get directly to the point. I cannot say more, but I'am contributing my signature to this Dire Environmental cause. What is wrong with people, maybe we should post the graphics of the deceased animals and birds . Let everyone see what is really happening here, sometimes you must show the details to get the point across. People should not be sheltered from these visions of horror, " because they are part of it ". And must reconcile with nature, the earth is our Mother, treat her with Respect ! ...

As much as they would prefer that we would. Let us not overlook the polluting aspects of the hundreds of Cruise ships flushing the contents of the tens of thousands of their toilets into the habitat of the Mantees and other Marrine Life on a daily basis.
It appears that only the fauna and flora seem to recognize the disaster inherent in the continuing polluting of the land, sea and air of our planet.
Don't forget that if we keep going as we are, we're next. I's inevitable!

As much as they would prefer that we would. Let us not overlook the polluting aspects of the hundreds of Cruise ships flushing the contents of the tens of thousands of their toilets into the habitat of the Mantees and other Marrine Life on a daily basis.
It appears that only the fauna and flora seem to recognize the disaster inherent in the continuing polluting of the land, sea and air of our planet.
Don't forget that if we keep going as we are, we're next. I's inevitable!

This is extremely heartbreaking news. These large and gentle creatures deserve a clean and safe environment. If we can't even keep that under control what are we even doing here? All species have to share this earth and its clear that humans are destroying it with our filth. Live as simply as possible!!

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