Florida Leaders Suggest Hunting Manatees


March 2022

Public comment on the manatee's unusual mortality event:

Oversimplifying a solution to our complex water quality issues by blaming manatees for decades of horrible policies, lack of environmental protection and enforcement, sewage spills, chemical-saturated lawns, growth with septic tanks, and humans negatively impacting our ecosystem is exceptionally harmful to clean water efforts.
In the last 14 months, I have witnessed the manatee's lack of survival in the Indian River Lagoon and the significant loss of their habitat, evidence of the beginning of extinction.
Our agencies claim to be "rescuing" the manatees, but on a nearly daily basis, I see a recovery mission of them collecting the bodies, initially piled on an island on the lagoon, and now being tied to docks across Brevard County, cranked into trailers, and stacked at a landfill. A dozen out of nearly 1,500 manatees have been rescued here on the east coast. Instead of being forthright with our communities, our agencies put on a pathetic "lettuce show," wasting taxpayers' money on public relations. Human interference has caused manatees to be malnourished, sick, and suffering lengthy, painful deaths.
Additionally, thermal pollution from the Port St. John power plant changes oxygen levels in the water, can cause suffocation to plants, and feed harmful algae. The Cape Canaveral power plant has 4.7 million dollars of heating equipment, and their plant is a refuge for manatees during the winter. This makes manatees dependent on industrial plants and disrupts their natural migration patterns.
The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 brought restrictions on thermal pollution, but officials cut a deal with FPL, allowing their plant to keep pushing out hot water to reduce cold-related mortality in manatees. The industry was able to get good PR and saved billions of dollars this way. They also lobbied to allow this cost to be passed onto the customers through our bills.
The expense of pollution is significantly impacting us. Our communities ultimately pay for the cleanup of waterways and to protect aquatic species.
32 years ago, the EPA designated the IRL as an estuary of national significance in 1990 to protect and restore our water. The decline of the seagrass has been well documented since the 1940s and its algal blooms that killed the seagrass in the first place. An ignorant response to this problem is wanting to “hunt the manatees” rather than asking why we altered their habitat and why the lagoon wasn't protected for the past three decades, impacting seagrass, fisheries, shorebirds, and more. Roughly half of the native species that once lived in the lagoon are gone.
As a board member of the national estuary program, Commissioner Smith, I ask that you send a letter to the government and ask them to revisit their requirements for thermal pollution and assess its impacts on our ecosystem.
I also ask the commission to meet with Fight For Zero to discuss numerous ways we can educate our communities on the balance of our ecosystem, water quality and how to reduce the impacts of our pollution.
Community participation is the most powerful tool for environmental conservation.
Sincerely,
Stel Bailey
Executive Director, Fight For Zero

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