“FWC: Forgot What Counts”

2013 IRL Florida Marine Mammal Pathology Photo

2013 IRL Florida Marine Mammal Pathology Photo

“Why did we learn that almost 40 manatees had died in the north/central IRL from a Tampa reporter and not FWC?” was the pointed question of  Marty Baum, the Indian Riverkeeper,  during the Harbor Branch Symposium last week.  The speaker was clearly uncomfortable as she presented onward, “Investigations into Multi Species Mortality Events In the Indian River Lagoon.”

The Florida Wildlife Commission’s website states: “More than 575 species of Wildllife; More than 200 native species of fresh water fish; More than 500 native species of saltwater fish…..balancing these species’ need with the needs of nearly 19 million residents and the millions of visitors who share the land and water with Florida’s wildlife…”

Hmm? Balancing? Just two days ago Palm City resident, Annie Potts, called FWC to report a dead pelican. FWC told her “they do not monitor any animal mortalities except manatees.”  She asked what she should do with the carcass. They replied: “she could throw it in the trash.”

Is there a disconnect here? In the northern and central lagoon, since January 2013, there are now two UMEs, or  Unexplained Mortality Events: including over 132 in northern/central IRL (250 for entire lagoon)of manatee deaths, 92 dolphins and 350 pelicans. 40% of the the IRL’s seagrass has died since 2009.

Mind you most of these deaths have been in the north and central lagoon, but wouldn’t it make sense to follow death patterns in along  the entire 156 mile lagoon? And apparently when they “were” following them, in the northern/central lagoon, FWC did not share with the public the horrific tragedy that was occurring. A Tampa reporter had to write a story before the public found out on the east coast.

Perhaps this data would have interfered with the “millions of visitors who share the land and the water with Florida’s wildlife?” Perhaps it would have tainted the state’s proud statistics that tourism in Florida is increasing in spite of its dry aquifers, algae filled weak-watered springs, toxic algae blooms and UMEs in the IRL?

Martine de Wit, of the FWC, St Petersburg, told Marty Baum that the information was on their website, but they did not know why the manatees died, so there was no urgency for the report. FWC and other state agencies continue say they do not know why the manatee’s died. And the dead seagrass, oh, they don’t why that died either. Not really.

At this point, the people of Stuart continue to report to FWC, but they are also posting and sharing on Facebook what dead sea and river animals they find along our shores and in our waters.

The Governor appoints the FWC commissioners for a five year term. Like the SFWMD most of these people are “businessmen and women.”  I still don’t get it, don’t they know that in Florida, clean water is business? FWC and many other state agencies have forgotten what counts.

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