Tag Archives: starving manatees

Visual Seagrass Comparison -August 2022 to January 2023 SLR/IRL

After a stretch of hurricane and rains since October 2022, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is clearing up. The river has endured the “usual suspects” C-44 basin, C-23 canal, C-24 canal, and stromwater runoff; however, luckily no damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

With my husband Ed’s most recent flight, I was pleased to see the blue, clear waters returning to the Sailfish Flats and surrounding waters of the St Lucie Inlet in the vicinity of Sewall’s Point. But I was surprised and a bit disturbed to see a “seagrass desert” once again. Of course seagrass, like all plants, is more abundant and lush in summer months, but to see “nothing?”  This seems strange. I need to get in the water with a mask for a closer look!

Let’s compare two photographs, one taken in August 2022 and another taken in January 2023.

I. AERIAL TAKEN January 8, 2023. Water looking clearer but no visible seagrasses.

II. AERIAL TAKEN AUGUST 26, 2022.  This photos show regrowth of seagrasses.

As the August 26, 2022 photograph shows, seagrasses had rebounded in the southern Indian River Lagoon after years of damaging discharges. The worst recent Lake Okeechobee discharges were between the years of 2013 and 2018.

St. Lucie seagrasses are critical water and wildlife habitat. Especially as the seagrasses in the central northern lagoon have disappeared at such an alarming rate that a high number of manatees have starved to death.  

In recent years FWC has been feeding Indian River Lagoon manatees romaine lettuce as they have no secure seagrass food source. This is not sustainable. All political policy must specifically support the betterment of water quality and the return of seagrasses of the Indian River Lagoon. This began yesterday with an Executive Order  of Governor Ron DeSantis. See section 2.

-ALL OF ED’S AERIALS January 8, 2013, around 12:30pm.

-EXTRA and WONDERFUL NEWS. Click on photos to enlarge.

The next day, January 9th, Ed went flying with artist and friend Geoffrey Smith to relocate a very endangered Right Whale and her calf that Geoffrey had spotted in the Hobe Sound area just south of the St. Luice Inlet, on January 8, 2023. With his permission, I am sharing Geoffrey’s photos.

Wonderful news that our St Lucie is looking better. We must continue to take the protection of seagrasses and water quality seriously.

-Photos and mapping of Right Whale and Calf off of Hobe Sound in Atlantic Ocean.  Geoffrey Smith, January 9, 2023.

AREA CANALS DRAINING TO SLR/IRL

SFWMD canal map showing canals that drain lands and thus negatively affect water quality in the St Lucie River.

The Hard Numbers-A Hard Future, Manatees

Crystal River, Credit: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic 2013.I

Slide from “Manatee UME on the Florida Atlantic Coast 2020-2021” -Martine de Wit, DVM

I wanted to share today’post because I have recently been exposed to this inofrmation. Most of it is very disturbing, and unfortunately, it is going to get even more so. We have to prepare. We have to decide. As winter approaches, we are going to have to face some hard choices about manatees.

As we all know, Florida’s manatee’s are in the middle of a UME or Unusual Mortality Event. It has been documented by FWC that most deaths are due to starvation as the seagrass meadows of the 156 mile long Indian River Lagoon are dead, dying, or in poor condition, due to poor water quality, algae blooms, discharges (S.IRL) , and thus lack of sunlight. The Florida Wildlife Commission’s 2021 numbers are displayed in the chart below and more information can be found here. 

This August, Martine de Wit, DVM, presented a power point to the Management Board of the Indian River Lagoon Council. It is heartbreaking but should be seen by all.

Manatee Unusual Mortality Event  on the Florida Atlantic Coast December 2020 July 2021 UME_IRLNEP_STEM_10Aug212

The bottom line is: this winter the migrating manatees will have site fidelity (like elephants) to the four power plants along the IRL. In the past, as many as 2500  have stayed true to the warm waters near Cape Canaveral’s power plant in the northern central IRL. The question is, not who will come this year, it’s just how many. These manatees will be warm but there are no longer historic seagrass beds to eat. In spite of this, they will stay and put being warm first. Since we know there is no seagrass and since we know they will gather in their known warm waters, should we try to feed them or relocate them/something not supported in the past…

What do you think?