MIAMI (CBSMiami) – 2022 is set to become another record year for manatee deaths in Florida.
In the first two months of the year, there were 400 manatee deaths, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
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Now, several conservation organizations have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect them.
Emilio Lopez of the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition said pollution and runoff are a leading killer of manatees and other wildlife in the bay.
“These organics break down in the water, they release a lot of the nutrients that they contain, things like nitrogen and phosphorus,” he said.
Lopez said these nutrients distort Biscayne Bay and harm its wildlife
“As you may recall, a few years ago there was a massive fish kill in Biscayne Bay and some of that was related to low oxygen levels, low sea temperatures. water and various factors. Nutrients are one of them,” he said.
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But nutrients don’t just kill fish. A recent lawsuit filed against the EPA claims that the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus allowed in the state’s waterways inhibits seagrass growth and, therefore, is responsible for a massive seagrass mortality event. manatees.
“We lost over 1,100 manatees in the State of Florida in 2021. This represents 13% of the total manatee population in the State of Florida. Environmental degradation in water quality has deprived manatees of their primary food source. These manatees are starving,” said Ragan Whitlock of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Save the Manatee Club, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, hopes to force the EPA to address the concern.
“So the purpose of our lawsuit is to compel the EPA to review Florida’s nutrient criteria for water. It means the load of nutrients that we allow each year to be dumped into the bays, into our waterways. With what happened last year, with the loss of manatees and the way water quality is deteriorating across the state, it is clear that this nutrient criterion is not good enough,” said said Whitlock.
Conservationists like Lopez hope the fight will be successful
“We have to protect the bay, we depend on it for jobs, for tourism, and also of course for the ecosystem,” he said.
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On May 25, the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition will host a summit to discuss other ways to protect the bay.