Save the Dolphins of Indian River Lagoon from Nutrient Pollution

Protect Florida wildlife from unregulated nitrogen and phosphorus over-fertilization and discharging.

Indian Lagoon dolphins wave ride by Capt NanSave the Dolphins and Seagrasses of Indian River Lagoon!

Rescue the most biodiverse estuary in North America by regulating lawn applications of nitrogen and phosphorus. Stop over-fertilization! (Save money, too.)

In September 2011 more seagrass is dying from massive algae blooms than in previous years. Jim Egan, Director of the Marine Resources Council, reports a massive “algae bloom is making the Lagoon waters so dark colored that there’s seagrass dying off at an exceptional rate”. Lots of effort has been put into restoring the seagrass beds over the last few years, and all that has been undone by this year’s outwash of nutrients due to summer rains. Clearly, the overuse of fertilizers on seaside lawns is causing big problems in the marine environment.

Martin County Commissioner, Patrick Hayes says that “we need to take every opportunity we can to reduce our urban footprint”.  In July, with ORI letters of support, Martin County enacted the toughest lawn fertilizer ordinance in the state. The ordinance is not an issue of enforcement; it is an issue of awareness and education. Now is the time, with your help, to get the other counties to act.

Save the dolphins and seagrass beds of the Indian River Lagoon. Lessen the phosphorus and nitrogen entering the Lagoon. Sign ORI’s letter.


Megan Stolen retrieves a dead dolphin from the Indian River LagoonBackground

The Indian River Lagoon is a shallow estuary closed off from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier beaches.  Once a place with lots of white sands, seagrasses, and abundant wildlife, it has become over-saturated by harmful nutrient pollutants, with a black, mucky bottom, choked by algal blooms.

Dolphins are dying at alarmingly high annual rates. In 2008, 43 dolphins died in the Indian River Lagoon. In 2009, 48 dolphins died. Research has revealed that dolphin deaths are highest when chlorophyll and nitrogen levels are highest in the water. The EPA estimates that the Lagoon gets 475,000 pounds of phosphorus in a year.  This is twice the phosphorus load that the ecosystem can sustain.  Three million pounds of nitrogen per year comes off the land. This is 1 million pounds of nitrogen over the ecosystem’s sustainable threshold. Excessive nutrients create toxic algae blooms, ocean dead zones, fish die-offs, harms wildlife, and greatly threatens biodiversity, as well as lessening recreational beach and water experiences. Dolphins are getting sick, exhibiting skin-eating fungal infections, and they’re dying.  Their waters have become a toxic soup.  To save the dolphins, we must lessen the amount of nutrient pollution entering the Lagoon.

“A dolphin die off is almost always associated with a dramatic drop in water quality. It makes them more susceptible to diseases, which can kill them.” - Jim Egan, Exec. Director of Marine Resources Council

Martin County, one of the six Lagoon counties, has taken the lead in fighting this issue. In January, Rob Moir and Capt Nan Beaver met with the County Commissioners and delivered 10,000 ORI letters. Six months later Martin County passed a new fertilizer rule banning the application of phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers on lawns from during the summer rainy months, a time period when fertilizer does the least good for lawns and when the most dolphins die. 

“Setbacks from waterways are extremely important. There is nothing like a 100 feet of Mother Nature to remove pollutants that would otherwise get into the Lagoon”.

“It’s more cost effective to use fertilizers without phosphorus and ones that contain 50% or more of slow release nitrogen”. They stay in your lawn much longer.   Jim Egan

The Martin County ordinance also requires setbacks from waterways, and at least 50% of the nitrogen must be slow release.  The more slow release nitrogen the more fertilizer stays in one’s lawn, and not into the Lagoon.  

Take Action: Sign ORI's letter. Tell County Commissioners of the other Indian River Lagoon counties why it’s important, for the love of the dolphins and seagrasses, to ban the excessive and unnecessary use of turf fertilizers.

Florida state government moves to prevent counties from passing tougher ordinances on use of lawn fertilizers and attempts to abolish the local county ordinances already in place!  ORI campaign, with your help, contributes to state instead ruling that counties may regulate use of fertilizer. Counties may not regulate the sale of fertilizers.

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ORI Partners

Indian River Keeper

The Rivers Coalition: Save Our Rivers, Stop the Dischages!

ORCA, Ocean Resources and Conservation Association

The Marine Resources Council of East Florida

Florida Oceanographic Society

South Florida Audubon Society Conservation Report

Related Links

Dolphin Facts

Facts About Dolphins

EPA's plan to set water-quality standards in Florida, a national first

EPA “Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters”

Dolphin Photos

 
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