Leaders of one of the countrys oldest marine conservation groups say a bill being considered by lawmakers would make it easier for developers to destroy seagrass that Florida’s manatees depend upon for survival.
Ocean Conservancy Florida legislators are being urged to oppose the legislation. The bills (SB 198 HB 349)Establishing seagrass mitigation banks is a good idea. This would allow a developer applying for permits to destroy seagrass to purchase credits from a mitigation bank to pay for seagrass restoration elsewhere. Theoretically, one acre would be one acre built in another place.
But there are no guarantees, and seagrass restoration projects don’t have a great success rate. J.P. Brooker, Ocean Conservancy’s director of Florida conservation, said thats especially concerning for Floridas manatee population that depends on seagrasses for sustenance.
Brooker stated that manatees are dying at an alarming rate in Florida due to the loss of seagrass and starvation. Florida should preserve and conserve existing seagrass beds by improving water quality.
Merritt Island Republican Rep. sponsored this House bill Tyler SiroisIt is almost identical to the bill he tried in 2021 to pass. This year was also the most fatal for manatees recorded in recorded history. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ReportLast year, more than 1000 manatees were killed. This is more than twice the average for five years. Most of those deaths were from starvation caused by the loss of seagrasses.
Brooker said that seagrass mitigation banks have not been proven to be effective in reducing the negative effects caused by development. They should not considered restoration or conservation measures. They are a way to reduce the damage to seagrass that is caused by development.
Florida has more that 2 million acres of seagrass on its coast and in its estuaries. However, these numbers are shrinking. Ocean ConservancyAccording to reports, Indian River Lagoon has lost 58% seagrass since 2009. The last three years have seen a loss of 18% in Sarasota Bay and a decrease of 12% in Tampa Bay. Seagrass is essential for manatees and other marine animals. It also helps to reduce erosion and improve water quality.
Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy FineIn a statement, a representative of the Indian River Lagoon said that he was from the district. December meeting of the committeeSeagrass restoration efforts are too risky to count on a mitigation bank.
Fine said that despite a 75% failure ratio, or 63% failure rate, it doesn’t matter what percentage. Because there is a 100% chance the initial acre of seagrass will have been destroyed. There is a chance of success, but there is a certain amount of destruction. We can’t have that in my county or in my area.