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“Procrastination is the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so.” – Wikipedia
As the hectic holiday season begins this Friday, folks will be rushing to area stores for special presents for loved ones and friends, and they most likely will find some good deals, making it a great Christmas holiday for many.
However, it would be even greater if we could wave a magic wand and make it so for one of most endangered species in our state, the iconic Florida manatee. It is predicted that this year may be another catastrophic one for the manatees. Their future does not look good, because there is not enough viable seagrass, their major food source, to keep them alive.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are dragging their feet on placing the manatee back on the endangered species list, making it almost certain that there will be another mass die-off this winter due to a lack of food and mounting mortality figures from deadly boat collisions.
It was back in 2017 that the FWS removed the manatees from the endangered species list and placed them on the threatened list. Since then (after major die-offs, the latest in 2021 when 1,300 manatees died of starvation) many environmental groups have joined hands to urge the two departments to return the manatee to the endangered species list.
In 2022 an agreement was announced requiring the FWS to undertake long-discussed revisions of “critical habitats” for manatees by September 12 ,2024.
In May of this year, we reported that three environmental groups were suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over Florida’s water quality. The three agencies are The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Save the Manatee Club. The lawsuit alleges that the EPA is not following or enforcing water quality standards set in 2009. The coalition is poking the EPA to start new talks with the FWS and the Marine Fisheries Service about the Indian River Lagoon. That area is responsible for a high number of manatee deaths in the state.
According to Elizabeth Forsyth of the Earthjustice Biodiversity Defense Program, “Over half of the deaths were preventable. Unchecked pollution in Florida’s runoff is causing massive algae outbreaks that kill seagrass, an important food source for manatees.
“As a result, manatees are starving to death at unprecedented rates. Ten years ago, the EPA approved Florida’s state water quality criteria for the area, concluding that they would not adversely affect the manatees. Now evidence will surely show the effects of procrastination in all these realms of manatee habitat.”
The plea of many environmental groups to place the manatee back on the endangered species list has still not been acted on. Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee, stated that “placing the manatee back on the endangered list would provide more money for research and for protecting the gentle sea cows. We need to do a better job today. Getting the manatee on the list could take some time.”
Other agencies have also rallied to place the manatee back on the endangered species list – so far, without any success. One migh ask why. This gentle creature does not bother anyone and only seeks to enjoy life in clean water, munching its natural food source, seagrass.
For now, all provisions for protecting the manatees seem to be on hold, even as cold weather is slowly returning to Florida.
In January of this year, a porgram was started to relocate sick manatees to zoos in Ohio.for treatment.Just this month three female orphaned manatees were shipped from the Tampa Zoo for further treatment at the Cincinnati Zoo.
One does not have to be fortune teller to see what is ahead for these gentle giants. It is obvious that the powers that be are more worried about the massive boating industry, which has supplied over a million boats for new owners who wish to enjoy Florida’s waters. Many boaters have voiced their complaints about the manatees.
One major, well-worn complaint from boaters is that manatees are responsible for the many slow zones in Florida’s waterways, thereby preventing boaters from getting the full freedom to operate their boats as they see fit.
So consequently, procrastination by state agencies has been the norm. Maybe if the death toll for this year again reaches an all-time high, procrastination will give way to efforts to save the manatees, so that they, too, can have safe and happy holidays.
A call to your state representatives asking them for support in this matter might help in this endeavor