Manatees face new danger from the Florida Legislature

Contributed by: JoEllen Schilke

Florida legislature proposes new rule allowing developers to destroy mitigate manatees’ food source

Florida Manatee deaths in 2021 surpassed all previous records, with more than 1,100 manatees dying. There were probably two main causes of death. Unseasonably cold weather caused some, and starvation caused many others. Environmentalists, animal and nature lovers, and regular citizens were shocked by the death toll.

But Florida’s legislature apparently wasn’t shocked. Instead, they are proposing to further decimate manatee feeding grounds. Seagrass beds provide manatees with their food. State Representative Randy Fine explained the situation in a recent column in Florida Today.

House Bill 349 would create a program to allow developers to pay money so that they can dig up and destroy the remaining natural seagrass in Brevard (or other coastal areas) with the hope that it can be regrown someplace else, possibly the Panhandle or the Gulf Coast.

So not only would the manatees’ main food source be destroyed, any mitigation would be in an entirely different area than where the manatees live. Combined with research that mitigation doesn’t work, this seems like another giveaway to developers. 

Craig Pittman gives an excellent overview of the bill and who likes it in the Florida Phoenix (he’s written an excellent book on manatees called Manatee Insanity). If you are thinking lobbyists and real estate professionals, you might be right. 

Take Action!

If you would like to let your Florida Representative know how you feel about House Bill 349, you can find their contact information here

If you would like to let your Florida Senator know how you feel about Senate Bill 198, you can find their contact information here

There is a fine for harming manatees. Would it be possible to fine everyone proposing and supporting this bill? 

Just so we don’t end in despair, here is a sweet manatee song.

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