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Conservation groups sue the EPA over manatee deaths

Earlier this year, I covered the death of more than 900 manatee as of August, due to alleged failures on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess manatee habitat and protect the iconic mammals.

Over half of the now 1,000 manatee deaths in Florida can be blamed on starvation. The starvation was caused by algae blooms that choked out seagrass, the manatees preferred food, the algae blooms were caused by pollution runoff.

The runoff and cascading effects culminating in mass manatee death is proof of inadequate EPA protections three environmental non-profits are arguing. The Center for Biological Diversity, Save the Manatee Club and Defenders of Wildlife have just issued a formal letter asking the EPA to resume consultation with Florida Fish & Wildlife to assess water-quality standards. 

“It’s disgraceful that hundreds of manatees have died as a direct result of regulators’ failure to protect our water quality,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The Indian River Lagoon is an ecological wonder that supports not just manatees, but green sea turtles, snook, tarpon and a stunning diversity of marine life. The mass death of these manatees, which was completely preventable, makes it clear just how critical it is that the EPA take swift action to protect the vibrant ecosystem they live in before it’s too late.”

The massive manatee die-off happened in Indian River Lagoon, important habitat for manatees and other animal and plant species. This is a problem that will continue without real change, the non-profit organizations warn. 

“Until Florida is forced to rein in its rampant pollution, manatees will continue to die slow, agonizing deaths by starvation every winter,” said Lindsay Dublin, staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “The EPA must act immediately to improve water-quality standards lest it further jeopardize the future of this iconic species.”

This is why these three organizations along with the support of Earth Justice are issuing a formal intent to sue the EPA. The lawsuit is an effort to force the organization to take pollution threatening the manatee and other wildlife seriously and change their management. 

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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