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Daily News Blog

31
Jan

Take Action to Protect Manatees: Toxic Runoff Is Killing Them

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2022) Public concern is now heightened as Florida manatees are facing extremely severe threats—so severe that wildlife officials have resorted to feeding them cabbage and lettuce in an attempt to keep their rapidly dwindling populations alive. Protecting manatees will require a multi-faceted approach, including upgrading their status to endangered and protecting their watery habitat from toxic threats.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to upgrade the Florida manatee to endangered and require protection from chemical pollution. Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators to support H.R. 4946. Tell Florida’s Governor DeSantis to protect manatees.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years old, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators. The biggest threat to these peaceful marine mammals is human activity. Humans harm manatees directly through boat strikes and encounters with fishing equipment, canal locks, and other flood control structures, but the largest threat comes from chemical pollutants.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating that over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, a bipartisan group of Florida Congressional Representatives, Rep Vern Buchanan and Rep Darren Soto, have introduced legislation (H.R. 4946) that would reclassify the sea cows as endangered.

Massive red tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees depend. Starvation resulting from the loss of seagrass beds has been a major cause of death of more than 1,000 manatees last year, prompting wildlife officials to feed them cabbage and lettuce as a last resort to keep them alive.

Exposure to contaminants like glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides, which persistently pollute Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other natural causes of mortality—including  red tide, and cold stress in the winter months, as manatees are unable to survive in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because manatees are the only marine mammals that drink freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways from lawns and landscapes, parks, golf courses, and farm fields. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing use of glyphosate and other herbicides on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of red tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and highly manicured landscapes. The algae blooms cause a cascade of impacts. Floating on the surface, algae block sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can either directly kill off more aquatic vegetation, or feed algae blooms as it breaks down. According to recent reporting, in just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. The Florida Governor’s plan to target wastewater treatment is an important component of the solution, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but more must be done to reduce use of toxics and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

It is critical that lawmakers and the public take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife and take meaningful action to reduce the need to store tons of fertilizer in precarious lagoons, and spray these and other harmful chemicals broad areas of land throughout the state. Organic land management and organic agriculture are critical to the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to upgrade the Florida manatee to endangered and require protection from chemical pollution. Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators to support H.R. 4946. Tell Florida’s Governor DeSantis to protect manatees.

Letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, it is clear that optimism over the status of the species was premature.

Massive red tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees depend. Starvation resulting from the loss of seagrass beds has been a major cause of death of more than 1,000 manatees last year, prompting wildlife officials to feed them cabbage and lettuce as a last resort to keep them alive.

Exposure to contaminants like glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides, which persistently pollute Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other natural causes of mortality—including  red tide, and cold stress in the winter months, as manatees are unable to survive in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because manatees are the only marine mammals that drink freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing use of glyphosate and other herbicides on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of red tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and treated landscapes. The algae blooms cause a cascade of impacts. Floating on the surface, algae block sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can either directly kill off more aquatic vegetation, or feed algae blooms as it breaks down. In just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. The Florida Governor’s plan to target wastewater treatment is an important component of the solution, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but more must be done to reduce demand and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

It is critical to take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife and take meaningful action to eliminate threats from harmful chemicals. Organic land management and organic agriculture are critical to the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Thank you for considering this request.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators (except Buchanan and Soto):

Florida manatees are facing severe threats—so severe that wildlife officials have resorted to feeding them cabbage and lettuce in attempts to keep their rapidly dwindling populations alive. Protecting manatees will require a multi-faceted approach, including upgrading their status to endangered and protecting their watery habitat from toxic threats. I am writing to ask you to support HR 4946 to re-classify manatees as endangered.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years old, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators. The biggest threat to these peaceful marine mammals is human activity. Humans harm manatees directly through boat strikes and encounters with fishing equipment, canal locks, and other flood control structures, but the largest threat comes from chemical pollutants.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, a bipartisan group of Florida Congressmembers, Rep Vern Buchanan and Rep Darren Soto, have introduced legislation (H.R. 4946) that would re-classify the sea cows as endangered.

Massive red tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees depend. Starvation resulting from the loss of seagrass beds has been a major cause of death of more than 1,000 manatees last year, prompting wildlife officials to feed them cabbage and lettuce as a last resort to keep them alive.

Exposure to contaminants like glyphosate herbicides, which persistently pollute Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other causes of mortality—including red tide and cold stress in the winter months. Because manatees are the only marine mammals that drink freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing use of glyphosate and other herbicides on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of red tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and treated landscapes. Algae blooms cause a cascade of impacts. Floating on the surface, algae block sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can both directly kill off more aquatic vegetation and feed algae blooms as it breaks down. In just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. The Florida Governor’s plan to target wastewater treatment is an important component of the solution, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but more must be done to reduce demand and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

It is critical that lawmakers and the public take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife and take meaningful action to reduce the need to store tons of fertilizer in precarious lagoons, and spray these and other harmful chemicals broad areas of land throughout the state. Organic land management and organic agriculture are critical to the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Please support H.R. 4946.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representatives Buchanan and Soto:

I am writing to thank you for introducing H.R. 4946 to re-classify manatees as endangered. Florida manatees are facing severe threats—so severe that wildlife officials have resorted to feeding them cabbage and lettuce in attempts to keep their rapidly dwindling populations alive. Protecting manatees will require a multi-faceted approach, including upgrading their status to endangered and protecting their watery habitat from toxic threats.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years old, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators. The biggest threat to these peaceful marine mammals is human activity. Humans harm manatees directly through boat strikes and encounters with fishing equipment, canal locks, and other flood control structures, but the largest threat comes from chemical pollutants.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, it is clear that optimism over the status of the species was premature.

Massive red tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees depend. Starvation resulting from the loss of seagrass beds has been a major cause of death of more than 1,000 manatees last year, prompting wildlife officials to feed them cabbage and lettuce as a last resort to keep them alive.

Exposure to contaminants like glyphosate herbicides, which persistently pollute Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other causes of mortality—including  red tide and cold stress in the winter months. Because manatees are the only marine mammals that drink freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing use of glyphosate and other herbicides on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of red tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and treated landscapes. Algae blooms cause a cascade of impacts. Floating on the surface, algae block sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can both directly kill off more aquatic vegetation and feed algae blooms as it breaks down. In just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. The Florida Governor’s plan to target wastewater treatment is an important component of the solution, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but more must be done to reduce demand and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

It is critical that lawmakers and the public take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife and take meaningful action to reduce the need to store tons of fertilizer in precarious lagoons, and spray these and other harmful chemicals broad areas of land throughout the state. Organic land management and organic agriculture are critical to the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Thank you for your support of the Florida manatee.

Letter to Florida Governor DeSantis:

I am writing to ask you to take action to protect the Florida manatee by using your leadership to require the management of state parks with organic land management practices.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, it is clear that optimism over the status of the species was premature.

Massive red tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees depend. Starvation resulting from the loss of seagrass beds has been a major cause of death of more than 1,000 manatees last year, prompting wildlife officials to feed them cabbage and lettuce as a last resort to keep them alive.

Exposure to contaminants like glyphosate herbicides, which persistently pollute Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other natural causes of mortality—including  red tide, and cold stress in the winter months, as manatees are unable to survive in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because manatees are the only marine mammals that drink freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing use of glyphosate and other herbicides on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of red tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and treated landscapes. The algae blooms cause a cascade of impacts. Floating on the surface, algae block sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can either directly kill off more aquatic vegetation, or feed algae blooms as it breaks down. In just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. Your plan to target wastewater treatment is an important component of the solution, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but more must be done to reduce demand and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

It is critical to take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife and take meaningful action to eliminate threats from harmful chemicals. Organic land management and organic agriculture are critical to the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Thank you for acting to protect the Florida manatee.

 

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