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Manatee Mortality Data, Disaster Engineering and Thoughts on Depopulation

By Georgianne Nienaber  Posted by Georgianne Nienaber (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   2 comments
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Sasquatch in a flooded New Orleans?

A preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) released January 7, 2008 says there were 317 manatee deaths in state waters in 2007. The total number of carcasses documented last year falls below the five-year average of 355.

Watercraft strikes and red tide continue to contribute to a high percentage of manatee mortality, accounting for more than half of the total deaths in 2007 where scientists could determine the cause of death. Necropsy results identify watercraft strikes as the cause of 73 deaths and red tide as responsible for 52 deaths in 2007, said Wendy Quigley of FWC in a press release.

FWC researchers report that watercraft and red tide-related deaths were high in Southwest Florida. The combination of these factors was identified as a concern for this region in the recently approved manatee management plan.

It is no wonder that red tide and red algae are big problems here in southwest Florida. The Army Corps of Disaster Engineers had its hands full with Hurricane Katrina and too much water in New Orleans when it began a drawdown of water from Lake Okeechobee in 2005. The result was that the east coast of Florida did not want the bulk of the toxic soup in their backyard, so it got sent down the Caloosahatchee, straight into the Gulf of Mexico and the sensitive “fish nurseries” of the baywaters here. This created perfect conditions for blooms of red tide, and red and blue-green algae-- posing serious toxicity threats to marine life.

In 2005 more than 600 billion gallons of yucky water from Lake Okeechobee flowed through the Caloosahatchee into the Gulf. The Disaster Corps overplayed its hand, though, and Lake Okeechobee sunk below nine feet, reaching all-time record lows for the lake and cutting off its water supply to its south. This really ticked of the agricultural interests who were responsible for the high lake levels and pollution to begin with. Sounds a lot like South Louisiana with a twist. The Disaster Corps can’t keep water out of New Orleans, and can’t keep it at reasonable levels in Okeechobee. Maybe we need a water pipeline running from NOLA to Florida. Sugar cane and agricultural interests are another animal and we will get to that in time.

The drawdown was music to the ears of bass fishermen, until the water got too low, but what we got on the barrier islands were more dead dolphins on the beaches, along with rotting sea turtles and so many wasted shorebirds that it wasn’t worth trying to count them all.

An earth shattering, expensive study linked nutrient pollution in the Caloosahatchee River to excessive seaweed growth in the Gulf of Mexico—what a shock!

Scientists came up with a voluminous report that suggested it might be a good idea to decrease the amounts of human and animal wastes that enter the watershed, not to mention the nitrates and poisons from agricultural interests.

Oh, and the print media reports also mentioned “grimy streets” as part of the problem. Let’s hope this does not give officials a good reason to begin the depopulation of southwest Florida like they did in New Orleans. Although, come to think of it, depopulating southwest Florida might not be such a bad idea.

I’m movin’ to New Orleans—the smell of oil in the air is getting to be mildly comforting and I can’t see what is going on inside of my lungs. Better than looking at wildlife carcasses on the beach, and living in “Cancer Alley” sounds kind of trendy. I am certain I hear Sasquatch calling to me when I am on the bayous. There are less sightings of him in Florida these days, and more in Louisiana. He might be onto something.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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