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Help Stop Toxic Harmful Algae in Florida to Save Dolphins

Nitrogen is the worst pollutant of our oceans. In Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, it is making dolphins sick by turning the water into a toxic soup every summer. A population of bottle-nosed dolphins swims their entire lives in Indian River Lagoon.  The dolphin population outside the Lagoon shows less signs of stress with significantly less skin-eating fungal infections. For a number of summers more than 40 Lagoon dolphins have died when nitrogen and chlorophyll levels are highest. The most recent scientific studies found more than 50 percent of them are ill and that they live, on average, only half as long as their free-ranging kin out in the Atlantic. Toxic green algae-slime is causing fish kills, destroying sea grass beds, creating ocean dead zones, and making dolphins suffer.  This is why we are asking our global community to support this local project.

You may sign ORI’s petition and ad a comment in your own words. Good comments are remembered by decision-makers longer than is the number of signers. Or you may sign our petition on Causes.  Please do not sign both or more than once unless it is to comment or change a comment because we work hard to remove redundancies before delivering your letters.

The most dolphin deaths were in Martin County.  The Ocean River Institute worked here with local residents and the County Commissioners to enact a county ordinance.  It took seven months to make the adjustments to behaviors of lawn owners that will result in cleaner waters, less slime on beaches and healthier dolphins. With this success, we turned our attention to the other four counties around Indian River Lagoon.  Chairpersons of two county commissions followed Martin County’s example, were met by fierce opposition and were defeated. Your support is needed now to get dolphin-saving stewardship enacted in the other counties.

Your contribution of 10 dollars will help our campaign efforts as we recruit support and raise awareness within these communities.  As hot, sunny summer days loom closer our top priority is to ensure that the remaining counties feel the nation’s pressure to improve lawn fertilizer practices with responsible stewardship ordinances.

Encouraged by Martin County’s success with three steps of respecting setbacks from waterways, at least 50% slow release and take a fertilizing holiday from June 1 to September 30th, two other counties put forward very similar regulations to reduce nitrogen pollution.  These good efforts were defeated by misinformation.  This despite last summer’s harmful algal blooms being so bad that sea grass beds died due to insufficient sunlight getting through the green slimy water.  Sea turtles, fortunate to escape the dolphins’ burden of the skin-eating fungal infections, depend on sea grass for food.

I am writing to ask you to reach into your pocket to help us save dolphins, clean water and see beaches without algal slime in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.  Let me explain why $10 will go far to achieve these objectives.  We are asking of lawn-owners to save money by fertilizing at the same times that agricultural businesses and golf courses fertilize – not during the summer months when heavy rains wash it all into the waterways.  Any dollars lost by fertilizer companies are dollars saved in the pockets of lawn owners.

Fertilizer sales are likely to go up in the weeks before and after the lawn-fertilizing holiday.  That’s good for business and it is okay for saving marine life because the suffering/deaths are during the ban period when waters are warmest and day length longest.  This is the time when nitrogen is the limiting factor to algal blooms.  June 1 to Sept 30th is when nitrogen pollution run-off does the most damage, a time when algae beasties are most hungry for growth.

“I am so grateful for ORI’s efforts to clean up our coasts and to restore healthy oceans. Living on Tampa Bay where I regularly see the dolphins, I am that much aware of what a terrible loss if there weren’t organizations to advocate for them”.

–        Carol from St. Petersburg, FL, on 12/7/12

For people like Carol to observe healthy dolphins and experience clean beaches are quality of life issues.  For most of us including me, just knowing dolphins are swimming free unencumbered by disease and stress is reassuring. Your contribution to save dolphins from nitrogen pollution will benefit us all.  I believe there will come a tipping point when enough counties practice responsible stewardship that saves lawn-owners time and money, all counties will follow like crocuses blooming in the spring.

On January 29th, ORI’s annual dinner honoring educational and advocacy programming in Indian River Lagoon will be held in Stuart Florida. Last year we honored a Martin County Commissioner as blue green hero for enacting responsible stewardship regulations during the summer months.  This year we have seen two similar county ordinances go down in defeat and in a third county middle school students presenting the merits of three steps for lawn care were scolded for advancing “totalitarianism.”

We won’t be fooled again.  We ask for your $10 to hear loud and clear your call for healthy dolphins and clean water.  With every donation we will be able to print, bind and distribute more petition letters; register for more tabling events in affected communities where we gather more signers and supporters; and, purchase more display advertisements in local print media.

By you acting more globally from all over with $10, we will accomplish more locally in the four counties where the dolphins are suffering.   With your assistance, we will make sure that fertilizer ordinances are passed, nitrogen pollution reduced, and the public educated in lawn care practices that will save time and money, while lessening suffering by dolphins and reducing harmful algal blooms.  We are on course and gaining momentum; it is simply a matter time.  Your contribution today will help save dolphins sooner.

For $10 your voice will be heard more widely. You will be recognized on The ORI Supporters poster at the Stuart dinner and be posted on our website. Let’s come together in clear testimony as to who cares for savvy responsible stewardship of wildlife.  If you are not completely satisfied in sharing in the pride of giving, we will return to you the pages printed or portion of advertisement paid for by your contribution.

Modifying people’s behaviors to better their environment is challenging. I invite you to take this opportunity to join us and together we will face ocean pollution challenges to save dolphins. First steps are always the hardest ones to make.  With one path-breaking county, the others need only follow your lead. Please make a $10 donation to help the Ocean River Institute stop nitrogen pollution of the ocean today!

9 responses on “Help Stop Toxic Harmful Algae in Florida to Save Dolphins

  1. Rob Moir, Ph.D. Post author

    Ed posted above ” Grazing by Karenia brevis on Synechococcus enhances its growth rate and may help to sustain blooms” by Patricia M. Glibert1,*, JoAnn M. Burkholder2, 1University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, PO Box 775, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA2Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA

    This research into the sustaining near shore of Red Tide Blooms provides scientific evidence that the Red Tide algae is capable of finding a food source to sustain itself near shore. This research explains how a Red Tide is able to sustain itself near shore for long periods of time.The research entitled, “Grazing by Karenia brevis on Synechococcus enhances its growth rate and may help to sustain blooms”, provides evidence that urea nitrogen run off from land based activities results in the blooms of Synechococcus and as cyanobacterial blooms increase, so too does the potential for Karenia brevis growth to be enhanced. In other words Red Tide blooms are sus­tained through grazing by Red Tide on the Synechococcus.

  2. Rob Moir, Ph.D. Post author

    This is a seminal research paper that establishes a causal link between urea nitrogen, a prime ingredient in lawn fertilizers and red tide blooms. The link is indirect because one form of nitrogen, urea nitrogen, causes the cyanobacteria-algae Synechococcus to grow rapidly (bloom). Synechococcus is then grazed on by Red Tide dinoflagettes. Urea nitrogen is the limiting factor as to whether there is a red tide or not. It is remarkable that just one form of nutrients coming off the land causes such blooms. This is what the behaviors of lab dinoflagettes told the researchers. During the longest hottest days of the year when conditions are best for blooms lawns are being over fertilized by an order of five times while agricultural businesses and golf courses are not. Lawns are the biggest culprits discharging urea nitrogen into the waterways. Lawn owners can have green lawns and save money, as well save the lagoon, by using spreading slow release fertilizer early in the growing season and by taking a holiday from fertilizing June 1 to Sept 30th. What’s good for the grass is good for the lagoon and good for ocean wildlife.

    1. Rob Moir, Ph.D. Post author

      Yes, These dolphins are suffering from skin-eating fungal infections and bees are also suffering from a fungal infection. In 2006 the white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection killed a few bats in New York; since then it has killed more than 5 million bats in 21 states and four Canadian provinces. From a single population of Polynesian tree snails in 1990 to today when fungal infections are responsible for more than 80 percent of known disease-driven animal extinctions! (Viruses, by comparison, are responsible for only 1 percent.)

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