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Daily News Blog

05
Dec

Time Running Out To Save the Manatees, Effort Launched to Classify Them as Endangered

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2022) A petition filed last week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) urges increased protections for the West Indian manatee after dramatic declines in its population over recent years. In 2017, USFWS downgraded the classification of the manatee from endangered—a category that broadly protects against “take,” defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct”—to threatened, for which an “acceptable” level of “take” is allowed. Following the downlisting of the species, manatee populations have declined dramatically.

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 to cosponsor H.R. 4946 and your Senators to introduce identical legislation. Tell Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect manatees.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years, 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, 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 (R-FL) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), have introduced legislation (H.R. 4946, Manatee Protection Act) that would reclassify the sea cows as endangered. In addition, a group of concerned environmentalists—the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club, and Frank S. González García—have petitioned USFWS to restore the endangered status.

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 to cosponsor H.R. 4946 and your Senators to introduce identical legislation. Tell Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect manatees.

Letter to U.S. Representative:

Florida manatees are facing severe threats, prompting a group of concerned environmentalists—the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club, and Frank S. González García—to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to restore the endangered status. 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 cosponsor H.R. 4946, Manatee Protection Act, to re-classify manatees as endangered.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators. The biggest threat to these marine mammals comes from chemical pollutants.

In 2017, 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 cosponsor H.R. 4946, Manatee Protection Act of 2021.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Senators:

Florida manatees are facing severe threats, prompting a group of concerned environmentalists—the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club, and Frank S. González García—to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to restore the endangered status. 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 introduce legislation identical to H.R. 4946, Manatee Protection Act, to re-classify manatees as endangered.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), can live as long as 60 years, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators. The biggest threat to these marine comes from chemical pollutants.

In 2017, 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 introduce legislation identical to H.R. 4946, Manatee Protection Act of 2021.

Thank you.

Letter to USFWS:

I am writing to support the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club, and Frank S. González García to restore the endangered status of the manatee.

In 2017, 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 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

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

In 2017, 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.

Thank you to sponsors of H.R. 4946

Thank you for sponsoring H.R., 4946, Manatee Protection Act of 2021, to restore the manatees’ endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. This action is critical for both the manatees and for Florida’s environment.

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