Tag Archives: Bossert

The Importance of Florida League of Cities’ Statewide Friendships for the Indian River Lagoon


Commissioner Ziffer of Tallahassee and I serve together on the FLC EENR Committee. (Selfie FLC Annual Conference, Hollywood Florida, August 16, 2014.Commissioner Ziffer of Tallahassee and I serve together on the FLC EENR Committee. (Selfie 2014 at FLC Annua Conference. )[/caption (http://www.talgov.com/commission/commission-officials-ziffer.aspx)
Commissioner and friend Gil Ziffer of Tallahassee and I serve together on the FLC EENR Committee. (Selfie at evening gathering, 8-16-14, FLC Annual Conference. ) (http://www.talgov.com/commission/commission-officials-ziffer.aspx)
No matter the focus of technology, there is nothing more important than human relationships. I believe that the Florida League of Cities and the relationships I and others have made there in the past years have been key in giving statewide recognition to the problems of our St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

Almost all cities and towns are members of the league and membership allows cities to have many business and educational services such as insurance and legal benefits at a reasonable “collective” price.  Another aspect of the league is its legislative committees that work months prior to each legislative session to come up with a “policy statement,” for league lobbyist to use during the legislative session to promote the business of the league.

The five  committees are Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Finance, Taxation and Personnel; Growth Management and Economic Development;  Transportation and Inter-govermental Relations; Urban Administration.(http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)

I first joined the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2010. It was intimidating to sit at the table with fifty or more mayors and commissioners from all over the state but it was enlightening to learn together about their issues.

It was here that I first learned first hand the extent of the destruction of our state aquifers and springs, (http://springseternalproject.org) and it was here that I got my nerve up to share about the problems of the sick St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon bottle nosed dolphins, and share how the southern Indian River Lagoon, my hometown,  has the highest level of lobo mycosis, a terrible skin disease,  as documented by Dr Gregory Bossert, formerly of Harbor Branch. It was here at this table I could relay the issue of  the documented compromised immune systems of these dolphins due to poor water quality from pollution of local canals and especially the ACOE’s releases from Lake Okeechobee. It was here and this table that I received support.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16426180)

2012 IRL sick dolphins as topic for the FLC EENR Committee discussion.
2012 IRL sick dolphins as topic for the FLC EENR Committee discussion.

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Over the years, the people on this committee and the staff of the Florida League of Cities like lobbyist/staff Ryan Matthews and Scott Dudley became my friends. I learned about the league and many cities’ environmental problems and they learned about Sewall’s Point’s. Ryan and Scott taught all of us how to advocate in Tallahassee for legislation on our issues.

Then in 2012, something amazing happened to me.

President of the League for 2013-14, Dr. PC Wu, councilman from Pensacola, appointed me Chair of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I had written Dr Wu asking to chair the committee and he gave me the honor even though I am from a very small town compared to many of my fellow members. Mayor Sam Henderson of the City of Gulf Port was vice-chair. We had a good year and although not much legislation came forth this session, Springs, Septic Tanks and  Estuaries, our top priorities, were hot topics of discussion and received funding from the legislature. A start…

This work occurs due to relationships. I believe the only way we will ever really save the Indian River Lagoon or the treasured springs of Florida is “together.” Water knows no boundaries, just as friendship goes beyond political parties, backgrounds, and religion.

I thank my friends from the Florida League of Cites;  I will continue teach and learn about your aquifer/springs  issues and I thank you for learning about our east coast Indian River Lagoon. Together we will effect change.

IMG_7997 IMG_7999 IMG_8001 IMG_8002 IMG_8003 photo







Up Close and Personal with “Clover,” the Newest Baby Dolphin, of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Clover the baby dolphin next to mother, Shamrock, May, 2014, Crossroads, SLR/IRL. (Photo Nic Mader, Dolphin Ecology Project.)
Clover- the baby dolphin, next to mother, Shamrock, May, 2014, Crossroads, SLR/IRL. (Photo Nic Mader, Dolphin Ecology Project.)
Nic Mader, taking photos of dorsal fins to identify IRL dolphins. (Photo JTL, 2013.)
Nic Mader, taking photos of dorsal fins to identify SLR/IRL dolphins. (Photo JTL, 2013.)

Nic Mader has one of the coolest jobs in the world, and one of great importance to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. She volunteers for the Dolphin Ecology Project in conjunction with Harbor Branch’s photo ID program. She photographs the dorsal fins of all dolphins in our area. When one looks closely, each dorsal fin is unique.

S. IRL dolphins fins/names created by Nic Mader 2013.
S. IRL dolphins’ fins/names created by Nic Mader 2013.

Generally speaking,  the IRL bottle-nosed dolphins are “site specific,” they have a “territory.” Even during crisis, like heavy rains causing polluted discharges and toxic algae blooms in our river from our local canals and Lake Okeechobee, the dolphins remain in our area within a range of about thirty miles. Nic photographs these dolphins and knows them by name. Her newest dolphin is a baby named “Clover.” The mother’s name is Shamrock. Baby Clover will stay aside Shamrock and accompanying group females for up to three years.

Clover is the newest documented member of the group/family of dolphins that live in the “southern lagoon,”which includes the southern IRL and St Lucie River. There are are other groups in the central and northern lagoon as well, all the way up to Volusia County. Sometimes these different groups interact but not too often.

Also, very rarely would one go into the Atlantic ocean through an inlet or a larger oceanic dolphin come inside. The dolphins of the SLR/IRL feel protected here. The entire 156 mile lagoon has about 800-1000 dolphins.  Just over a hundred live in the southern area full time.

Even though the lagoon provides protection, there are numerous threats to Clover and her friends and family.

1. Boat hits: More dolphins are struck by boat hits in the southern IRL than any other part of the lagoon and unfortunately Clover’s mother Shamrock is raising the calf in the Crossroads area, the busiest boat traffic area in Martin County. Fishing is good in this area so Clover is being taught to fish, like her pod, in these dangerous waters. (FAU/Harbor Branch Dolphin Health and Boat Hits: (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/marine_mammals/pbbe_lab.php)

Dolphin in IRL whose dorsal fin has been split by boat hit. (Photo Nic Mader, HBOI/DEP.)
Dolphin in IRL whose dorsal fin has been split by boat hit. (Photo Nic Mader, HBOI/DEP.)

2.  Toxicity: Harbor Branch has documented that IRL dolphin have the highest levels of mercury in the southeastern US. As much as 14 times higher than “acceptable” by FDEP. In fact, it is well accepted that the first baby dolphin a mother has often dies as mothers offload acquired toxins into the first baby that are stored in the mother’s fat. Just horrific. (Dolphin and Human Mercury IRL, Schafer, HBOI, (http://www.cehaweb.com/documents/2_000.pdf)

3. Fishing line and hooks: Unfortunatley dolphins are so smart it often gets them in trouble like when they try to steal fish off a fisherman’s hook or curiously tamper with crab traps getting the band stuck over their head and neck.

4. Feeding by humans: One of the worst things that can happen to wild dolphins is for people to feed them, as this behavior teaches them not to feed themselves. (PSA,Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjHNXbviACk)

5. Lobomycosis: Lobomycosis is a terrible skin disease only know to affect humans and bottle nosed dolphins. Harbor Branch has documented more lobomycosis in the southern IRL (17%) than anywhere in the entire IRL, west Florida,  and SE US. This is linked to polluted fresh water releases.  (Abstract “Lobomycosis,”  Dr Bossert, Harbor Branch: (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10393-008-0187-8)

Lobomycois in S. IRL dolphins. Photo Dr Gregory Bossert, 2011)
Lobomycois in S. IRL dolphins. Photo Dr Gregory Bossert, 2011)

6. Chemicals: Unfortunately, septic tanks do not filter drugs that we all take and these drugs, antibiotics, even caffeine, find their way into our rivers accumulating  in dolphins. Many are immune to antibiotics in the IRL. (Abstract, Anti-biotics IRL Dolphins, Dr Bossert, Harbor Branch: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19415386)

7. Morbillavirus: Morbillavirus is like dolphin measles. Presently there is an UME or “unusual mortality event” along the east coast of the US and thousands of dolphins have died. If there were contact between a sick oceanic dolphin and our IRL dolphins, our IRL dolphins could contract the deadly disease. (Abstract, Morbilliavirus IRL dolphins, Dr. Bossert, Harbor Branch: (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378113509005732)

8. Tumors/Papillomaviruses: About 33% of IRL dolphins have been documented to have tumors linked to papillomaviruses.  (Abstract, Papillomaviruses IRL Dolphins, Dr Bossert, Harbor Branch: (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378113512003574)

Most IRL dolphins have an average life span of 25 years – and a maximum life span of about 50 years. Dolphins living in the ocean have a longer average life span by about 15 years. Seems it would be the opposite as the lagoon is a “safe haven.” (Sea World, (http://www.animalsnetwork.org/wild-world/zoo-research/indian-river-project/dolphin-56.htm)

Clover, like all new life, has a mountain of obstacles to overcome, but making  that even more difficult is that, in today’s world, especially in the St Lucie River/indian River Lagoon, bottle-nosed dolphins’ immune systems are compromised due to poor water quality.

Let’s do what we can to help out. Please slow down if you are in the Crossroads, take the time to look around and see if you can find Clover playing in the waves or learning to hunt.  And most important, let’s not  accept the above list of 1-8 as “status quo;” let’s fight to give Clover a chance for a long and beautiful life along the Indian River Lagoon.


Dolphin Ecology Project: (http://www.dolphinecology.org/FindOut/index.html) 

FAU/Harbor Branch and “Save Wild Dolphin” license plates: (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/)