Tag Archives: dolphins

Wildlife’s Toxic Algae “State of Emergency,” Their Unheard Cries, SLR/IRL

Alligator...
Alligator swimming in toxic algae…Central Marine.

We are in a State of Emergency…

The Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since January 29th and toxic algae from the lake has been released into our St Lucie River. We are being invaded. This is horrific for the people, but what about the animals? Thank God someone is documenting their plight….

Facebook friend, Rebecca Fatzinger, is not only a voice for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but for its wildlife. With the cries of the people “loud and clear” sometimes it seems the animals are but an afterthought for our local, state, and federal government.

I can’t help but wonder….

The Florida Wildlife Commission? The Department of Environmental Protection–have you written a statement about the wildlife implications of this bloom? What are you thinking? Are you allowed to say?

How could the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon once have been the most bio-diverse estuary in North America? How could we be home to some the state’s most important aquatic preserves?

Thank you to Rebecca for documenting and giving us an up close look as the animals try to cope.

Heartbreaking. Disturbing. Disgusting….

This is home?

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Manatee....
Manatee….SLR
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Little Blue Heron...
Little Blue Heron…SLR
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…Limpkin
Dove
Dove
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Seagull at on shoreline of Atlantic Ocean
Seagull at on shoreline of Atlantic Ocean, Bathtub Beach.
Seagull up close
Seagull up close
Pelicans diving in toxic algae--this bloom came back at from DEP 414 mpl.
Pelicans diving in toxic algae–this bloom came back at from DEP 414 mpl. Bathtub Beach.
Pelicans
Pelicans
St Lucie River wide water
St Lucie River wide water looking towards Roosevelt bridge.
Crab...
Crab…
Duck
Duck
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Ducks...
Duck with baby duck…
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Night Heron..
Night Heron..
Water coming out of St Lucie Locks from Lake Okeechobee with visible algae
Water coming out of St Lucie Locks from Lake Okeechobee with visible algae
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….Little Blue Heron eyes dead fish in algae
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
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Oysters
Oysters
Anhinga
Anhinga
Osprey waits out rain to hunt below...
Osprey waits out rain to hunt below…
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Armored catfish
Armored catfish
Western side of C-44 Canal at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam. This structure discharges water from Lake Okeechobee and the agricultural basin created to drain lands into the St Lucie River/IRL. (Photo Dr Scott Kuhns, 6-22-16)
Western side of C-44 Canal at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam. Algae can be seen going through S80 into the SLR hurting wildlife and people.  (Photo Dr Scott Kuhns, 6-22-16)
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
Megan Remnick also Facebook
This one is from Megan Remnick also Facebook friend…
Aerial of S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam. Visible algae flowing through S-80 from western area of C-44 towards the St Lucie River. Photo Ed Lippisch.
Aerial of S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam. Visible algae flowing through S-80 from western area of C-44 towards the St Lucie River. Photo Ed Lippisch.
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-21-16
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-21-16 JTL
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Vulture
Vulture
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image and is connected to Lake Okeechobee.

THANK YOU TO REBECCA FATZINGER FOR SHARING HER PHOTOS!

7-12-16  NOTE: Although there are no photographs of bottlenose dolphins in this series they are certainly swimming in algae waters further from shore where the algae is more “particulate.”  Yesterday, I spoke with Nic Mader of Dolphin Ecology Project and she said she has seen dolphins swimming around in their “normal” areas on her runs. The animals are very “sit specific” (territorial) like people.  I also called Dr Gregory Bossert now of Georgia Aquarium formerly of Harbor Branch and his response was that this is just one more layer in an already health-affecting system— noting the animals sicknesses such as low immune system, lobo mycosis, and lessons the animal have been prone to for over 15 years since HERA Heath Environmental Risk Assessment began.  Nic has stated if she gets photos she can share she will.

This blog post I wrote in 2014 about dolphin health and freshwater pollution may be insightful: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/26/fresh-water-pollution-a-destructive-force-in-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/
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AGENCIES TO ASSIST; please contact them.

FWC:http://myfwc.com

DEP:http://www.dep.state.fl.us/mainpage/default.htm

SFWMD:http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page

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.

photo 2

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding the Many “Unusual Mortality Events,” along the Indian River Lagoon

A large 7 foot  male dolphin dead along the banks of the St Lucie River, 2012 (Photo Nic Mader)
A large dead 7 foot male dolphin held by Dolphin Ecology Project volunteer along the banks of the St Lucie River, 2012.  (Photo Nic Mader)

Right now there are two “Unusual Mortality Events/UMEs” occurring in the Indian River Lagoon and  another along the Atlantic Coast. Hundreds of marine mammals and pelicans have died but fortunately the IRL UMEs have slowed down.

The UME  for Indian River Lagoon manatees “and pelicans” started in 2012; another for Indian River Lagoon bottle-nosed dolphins that do not usually leave the lagoon began in 2013; and the third  for larger Atlantic coast dwelling/migrating  bottle-nosed dolphins stated  around 2012/13. According to state and federal agencies, the Indian River Lagoon UMEs are “mysterious,” but thankfully “they” can say they know the  Atlantic dolphin  UME is “morbillavirus,” or dolphin measles.

Manatees/: (http://myfwc.com/research/manatee/rescue-mortality-response/mortality-statistics/)

Northern/central IRL bottle-nosed dolphins: (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/floridadolphins2013.html)

Atlantic bottle-bosed dolphins: (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/midatldolphins2013.html)

NOAA definition of a UME under Marine Mammal Act: (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/)

Interesting how in the Indian River Lagoon, the UMEs coincide with the also “mysterious” loss of 60% of its seagrasses since 2009/10; this situation really “crashed” and became public in 2013, simultaneous with the dumping from Lake Okeechobee and the peoples’ River Movement in Martin and St Lucie Counties in the southern lagoon.

SJRMWD seagrass loss data: (http://floridaswater.com/itsyourlagoon/)

For every day folk, unlike our  federal and state agencies, there  is no “mystery,”  there simply is not enough left for the animals to eat. While being so critical,  I should note a commonly spread falsehood, “that the releases from Lake Okeechobee are causing the die off in the northern/central lagoon,” is untrue. Certainly they negatively affect and help cause disease in the souther lagoon, but Brevard and Volusia counties, over a hundred miles north, are too distant for the releases to be killing these animals directly. Particularly northern lagoon dolphins who are very territorial and generally stay in either the north.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the southern lagoon right now, especially the Ft Pierce area, is one of the few half-way healthy areas remaining,  so dumping that is pushed up to Ft Pierce Inlet,  from Stuart, is part of an overall death for the IRL: north and central  horrid algae blooms and UMEs, and then the southern lagoon’s problems with Lake Okeechobee releases and its other canals causing seagrass loss, up to  85% according to Florida Oceanographic’s Mark Perry.

So UMEs in the IRL and seagrass loss are related and the agencies recognize this connection but still consider the UMEs a “mystery.”

To close, one of the concerns of Stephen McCulloch, former director of the marine mammal department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is that southwardly migrating dolphins along the Atlantic coast could enter the Indian River Lagoon, or a rare lagoon dolphin may exit an inlet and interact with oceanic dolphins then spreading  morbillavirus  among the already “mysteriously sick” Indian River Lagoon dolphins.

McCulloch is concerned if the virus entered the lagoon, it  could “kill them all.”

There were fewer than one thousand in the lagoon loosely documented before the 2013 IRL dolphin UME and now it is accepted that over 10 percent of those have died. This, as all marine mammal health, is a very serious matter.

LINK: Video IRL/UME by ORCA: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXahUnqfv78#t=28)

Tallahassee’s Dolphins and the Sadness of the Indian River Lagoon

Stormsong

The last time I was in Tallahassee was I eighteen and there to cheer on the Florida Gators.Today I was there to visit the Capitol and  the city looked very different with thirty plus years under my belt.

I noticed the city was actually quite beautiful, very southern, with magnificent, awe inspiring oak trees, tall stately buildings, and dolphins.

At the back of the Capitol, which today almost acts like the front of the Capitol, there is a large statue called “Stormsong” composed of stainless steel dolphins. The animals seem to soar joyously in invisible waves.(http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/17019) The large piece is beautiful.

The statue is by Hugh Bradford and is a “celebration of Florida’s wildlife.” A public private partnership, from Florida’s  Bush administration, that was started in 2000 and completed in 2008, made the work possible.

As breathtaking as the statue is, I could not help but be saddened knowing that the dolphins who live in my home town of Sewall’s Point in Martin County are probably the sickest in the state. These dolphins suffer from suppressed immune systems, multiple sicknesses and more than anywhere else, lobomycosis. This has all been written about and documented by Dr Gregory Bossert previously of Harbor Brach Oceanographic Institute. His research states that it is believed the filthy fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee exasperate an already toxic water system in the southern Indian River Lagoon.
(http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.228.1.104)

On top of this the northern and central lagoon has had a UME or “unexplained morality event” since 2013 and over 90 dolphins have died, “mysteriously.”
(http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/floridadolphins2013.html)

It is time for the Capitol’s politicians to look deep within themselves and out the widows and start working for the irreplaceable wildlife in our state instead of against it.

Love Your Lagoon? I Think We Better Save It.

S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with skin disorder due to impaired immune system
S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with skin disorder due to impaired immune system from polluted-water discharges (photo Dr Gregory Bossert)

Tonight I am chairing “Love Your Lagoon,” a fundraiser of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation. http://www.indianriverlagoon.org. Funds will support and benefit the HBOI Symposium, that occurred yesterday and will again next year. Over 300 scientists and students from across the state collaborated giving  presentations on “bio-diversity,” within the 156 miles lagoon and it’s changes. It was an inspiring and depressing day.

I first became became intrigued with Harbor Branch  four years ago when I read the research of  Dr. Gregory Bossert and lobo mycosis numbers in southern IRL/SLR  dolphins.

His research documents  that  the southern IRL dolphins are “sicker” that their lagoon comrades north of them. Dolphins are site specific and  have strong family and territorial bonds. Their ranges generally are limited  to one “area” of the lagoon. So even when water quality is awful from discharges, they stay, as we would to protect our homes after a hurricane.

Dr Bossert’s work states the polluted discharges from local canals and Lake Okeechobee are the reason southern IRL dolphins are even “sicker” with lobo mycosis.  Since his research came out in the mid 2000s,  starting in 2013, a “UME” Unexplained Mortality Event has taken the life of  92 northern lagoon dolphins, 132 manatees, 350 pelicans and 40 percent of the seagrasses have died since a “super-bloom”/brown tide in the northern/central lagoon that started in 2011.

Love Your Lagoon? South, north or central, I think we better save it.