Harmful Algae Blooms are Causing Manatees to Starve

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Manatee

In 2021 we lost over 1,100 Manatees, over twice the average death rate, because harmful algae blooms are causing manatees to starve. In recent years, the Indian River Lagoon System has suffered from harmful Algae blooms nearly every summer.

In 2021 algae blooms prevented sunlight from reaching the seabed over vast areas of the Indian River Lagoon. If seagrass does not receive enough sunlight, it won’t grow or will die off. So, in 2021 we lost most of these Manatees due to starvation from the lack of seagrass in the lagoon, which grows on the seabed and is the manatees’ primary food source.

Jamie Asked: “how can I help protect manatees?”

Darius’ Answer: Visit the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition website to learn how you can help manatees by helping with the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon at home, in your neighborhood, and city.

What Causes Harmful Algae Blooms?

Algae blooms are caused by pollution. In the summer, it rains nearly every evening in Florida. Any fertilizers or pesticides used on yards wash into the lagoon system. Fertilizers spark the growth of algae blooms. If we don’t find a way to limit the amount of fertilizer and pollutants discharged into the India River and banana River lagoons and get the algae under control, Manatees could go back to being endangered.

Florida Manatee Starved Due to Loss of Sea Grass

Florida Manatee Starved Due to Loss of Sea Grass

Blue Green Algae

Blue Green Algae

About the Indian River Lagoon

The shallow-water estuary known as the Indian River Lagoon, which is 156 miles long and connects the counties of Volusia and Palm Beach in Florida, is not a river. With more than 3,000 different plant and animal species, it is considered one of the Northern Hemisphere’s most biodiverse lagoon environments.

The canal’s health has been impacted by years of development along Florida’s east coast. Recent research demonstrates that eutrophication, or an excess of nutrients, harms the water quality of the three lagoon basins that make up the estuary: the Indian, Banana River, and Mosquito lagoons. This has resulted in frequent algal blooms over the past ten years, which have severely reduced the amount of seagrass in the estuary.

Harmful Algae Blooms in Indian River Lagoon

Harmful Algae Blooms in Indian River Lagoon

Manatee Banana River Lagoon Algae Bloom

Manatee Banana River Lagoon Algae Bloom

The Effort to Restore the Indian River Lagoon and Help Manatees and Other Wildlife

In a collaborative effort to improve overall water quality, municipalities, counties, states, and the federal government are working on a lagoon-wide scale to decrease and remove sediment, fertilizers, and other pollutants from runoff that flows into the estuary. However, restoring the lagoon’s health is a complex problem that cannot be solved quickly or easily.

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