Like most Floridians, I have a soft spot for manatees. Since my childhood days exploring Biscayne Bay in Miami, there’s never been a time when I didn’t jump with excitement when I spied one of these gentle giants in our waters.
Now I live in Tallahassee with my family, and we are fortunate to have Wakulla Springs State Park nearby. In the cooler months, dozens of manatees will travel up the Wakulla River to gather around the spring vent – the spot where the “warm” water gushes out of the aquifer. My daughters especially love to watch the baby manatees as they effortlessly maneuver the waterways, never straying too far from their mothers.
Unfortunately, for decades state lawmakers have allowed polluters to poison our waters, developers to destroy our coastal ecosystems, and utility companies to handcuff us to climate change-causing fossil fuels. Years of neglect and environmental malpractice has led to shocking ecological collapse across the state. And sadly, our beloved manatees are paying the highest price of all.
Nearly 900 of Florida’s manatees have died this year alone. That’s more than 10% of the entire population in our state. And, it’s only August.
Manatees are dying from starvation. Seagrass, their primary food source, has been wiped out by dirty, polluted water. In the past 10 years, more than half of all the seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon has died off – about 46,000 acres. Manatees and their babies are literally starving to death in what once was one of the most vibrant estuaries in the world.
This loss of seagrass is largely due to water pollution, which decreases water clarity and fuels algae blooms that block sunlight needed for seagrass to flourish. Water pollution from fertilizer, agriculture, and sewage drive the explosive growth and longevity of algal blooms. Warming waters and irregular weather patterns associated with climate change will only make these blooms worse in the coming years.
When we started Florida Conservation Voters in 2015, it was with a clear vision in mind: a government that prioritizes the protection of our waters so that manatees, other animals, and people can thrive. Manatees cannot vote and they cannot advocate on their own behalf at the Florida Legislature. Manatees need people like you and me to be their voice – to hold lawmakers accountable to their duty to reduce pollution and protect our living planet.
No community should have to suffer through days and months of dead manatees, fish, and other marine life washing up on their shores. It’s unsustainable for all life in Florida.
The worst part of this whole story is that we know what to do to solve this problem, but our leaders lack the political courage to get the job done. Here at FCV, we are not afraid to speak truth to power. We work to elect conservation leaders who will improve the lives of everyone who calls Florida home – including our manatees.
This work is vital and will only become more important as the climate crisis worsens in the coming years. But pollution is big business, and there are countless anti-science climate deniers and industrial polluters that want nothing more than to maintain business-as-usual.
We have to keep fighting back, and we need your help. Please consider a gift to FCV. We are trying to raise $45,000 before the end of the month in preparation for state legislative committee weeks that begin in September.
Your gift will help grow the Conservation Voter Movement in Florida and, together, we will save our waters and the amazing array of life they support.