Standing Strong for the Everglades


The lush mangrove and sawgrass marshes of South Florida are the last of a great wilderness that, until the 20th century, stretched for hundreds of miles. The Everglades shelter countless species, including endangered Florida panthers, manatees, and American crocodiles.

Today, this natural wonder is besieged.  Sixty years of encroaching development have disrupted natural water flows, harmed wildlife with pollution run-off and destroyed more than half of the Everglades' unique, species-rich wetlands.

Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to reduce the flow of pollution from nearby developments into the Everglades and restore provisions of the Clean Water Act. The rules are due to be announced this fall, but big developers and their allies in Congress are already threatening to stop the EPA from doing its job.

The EPA needs to know that the public supports strong, sensible action to protect the Everglades. That's why we're mobilizing thousands of Floridians to urge the EPA to set rules that require developers to minimize harmful runoff.

Please take action by signing our petition today.
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Helping Florida's Sea Turtles Survive

Sand castles, surfboards, fishing rods, beach toys and umbrellas - all part of a day at the beach - can be dangerous and even potentially deadly to Florida's nesting sea turtles.

Each spring turtles begin emerging from the surf in the dark of night, crawl toward the dunes and deposit hundreds of leathery, ping-pong-sized eggs beneath the sand before returning to sea. After about sixty days the eggs hatch, the tiny turtles climb out of their nests and make their way back to their ocean habitat. The males never come back to land; the females, if they survive to maturity, will return to the very same beach to repeat the ancient ritual that has insured the survival of their species for 70 million years.

The east coast of Florida is the second largest loggerhead nesting beach in the world. The first is in Oman, on the Arabian Sea.

Today their survival is threatened. All five species of Florida’s nesting sea turtles - the leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley - are listed as endangered or threatened.

Sea turtles have many natural predators on land - raccoons, ghost crabs, foxes, fire ants, feral dogs and cats - that raid their nests for food. But a much greater threat to sea turtle survival can be items left behind by humans. Sand castles not swept away by the tide can obstruct the turtle’s journey to nest, as can umbrellas, canopies and chairs left on the beach overnight.

Encountering these obstacles, the mother will often abandon her attempt to lay her eggs, or worse, she may get trapped causing injury or even death. Entanglement in fishing line also has serious consequences, impeding the turtle's ability to crawl and swim. Sea turtles often mistake trash - such as empty soft drink bottles, paper, foil and balloons – for food and eat them.

Artificial lighting along the beach is another hazard to newly emerged hatchlings. Hatchlings crawl toward the brightest point, traditionally the moon-reflecting on the sea. Lights draw them away from the ocean where they may get caught in swimming pools, be exposed to additional predators or die from dehydration after wandering in the dunes under a blazing sun.

During the nesting season, SOS! Florida and other state volunteers will patrol the beaches to identify and correct potential threats to the emerging hatchlings.

Here are some ways you can help:
  • Fill in holes on the beach and flatten sand castles at the end of the day.
  • Remove all personal belongings such as beach chairs, toys, umbrellas and canopies from the beach each day.
  • Pick up any litter on the beach and dispose of it properly.
  • If possible, avoid using flashlights, building bonfires, or displaying fireworks on the beach between May 1 and October 31.
  • Report any direct and non-direct reflective artificial lighting along the beach during nesting season to the county. Find a list of contacts by clicking here.
  • Volunteer at a reserve!
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Risks Outweigh Benefits of Drilling

Map of Florida State Waters. Click to Enlarge.
As the debate continues over the potential of allowing offshore drilling in Florida's state-controlled waters, which extend 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, it is important that the public be made aware of not only the environmental consequences of offshore drilling, but also potential economic implications.

These pocketbook issues tend to be a driving force behind voter opinion on the subject, so it is important for us to ensure the public is well-informed. Here we have laid out some of the basic facts about Florida's economy as well as the economic potential (both 'positive' and negative) from allowing drilling rigs near our shores.

Based on these findings, we can say with absolute confidence that the risk of damaging Florida's tourism and fisheries far outweighs any value that could be gained by lifting the current moratorium banning exploration and drilling in our state waters.

Florida's Tourism Industry:

Tourism brings in nearly $60 billion to Florida each year, which amounts to $3.4 billion in state tax revenues, and directly employs over 900,000 people. It is the state's largest employer1

• If Gulf Coast counties lost just 10 percent of their tourism and leisure jobs and spending, the estimated losses would be 39,000 jobs and $2.2 billion. If that number is increased to 50%, 195,000 Florida jobs would be eliminated and $10.9 billion lost – and that's just in the Florida Panhandle2

Florida's Fishing Industry:

• Florida is the nation's number one spot for sports fishing, attracting nearly 3 million anglers and accounting for nearly $5 billion in revenue annually3

• Commercial fishing off Florida's coasts generates over $6 billion annually and directly supports nearly 20,000 jobs3

Potential Economic Benefits from Offshore Drilling:

There are an estimated 236 million barrels of oil and oil equivalents in Florida's state-controlled waters, according to a study commissioned by the Florida Legislature and conducted by the Collins Center for Public Policy4

• Global oil usage is approximately 86 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration5 Based on that number, Florida's total oil and gas resources amount to little more than a 3 day supply (236 million/86 million).

• The United States uses over 20.8 million barrels of oil per day, while Florida uses nearly 360 million barrels of oil each year6 That means Florida's offshore oil and gas resources amount to only 11 days worth of oil nationally and less than a year's worth of oil supply to the state (assuming 100% of the oil came to the state, which is impossible since oil is an internationally traded commodity and there is no state-owned oil company).

• Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama combined bring in between $300-500 million from offshore drilling each year, and the total number of direct offshore drilling jobs comes to just under 12,500 for the entire Gulf of Mexico5 Florida could only expect to see a fraction of that number if we allowed rigs off our shores.

Resources:

2 University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. http://www.iec.ucf.edu/post/2010/05/01/Gulf-oil-spill-could-be-disastrous-for-Florida-economy.aspx
5 U.S. Energy Information Administration. http://www.eia.doe.gov/
6 National Priorities Project Database. http://www.statemaster.com/graph/ene_pet_con-energy-oil-consumption

Picture Credit: Collins Center
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Save Our Seagrass

Seagrass habitat plays an important role in maintaining a diverse and healthy coastal ecosystem in Florida. Unfortunately, this valuable habitat is threatened by human activities. Coastal runoff from nearshore construction and agricultural projects, storm runoff from cities, dredging operations, and micro-algal blooms can reduce the amount of light reaching the plants and may even smother them. Additionally, off-course boaters may rip giant "blowholes" into seagrass formations.
                                                      
Why seagrasses are important:

Florida is estimated to have over 2,000,000 acres of nearshore seagrass. Florida's acres of seagrasses are important natural resources that perform many valuable functions:
1. They stabilize the sea bottom with their roots and rhizomes in much the same way that land grasses retard soil erosion (often important when storms approach our coastlines and threaten Florida beaches, businesses, and homes).
2. They help maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles. Bottom areas without seagrass are more often stirred up by wind and waves decreasing the water clarity and affecting marine animal behavior and recreational quality of coastal areas).
3. They provide habitat for many species of fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. Research has shown many species are dependent on seagrass meadows for habitat.
4. Seagrasses and the organisms that grow on them are food sources for many animals, including wild manatees.
5. They are nursery areas for much of Florida's recreationally and commercially important marine life.
Operating a boat in water that is too shallow can result in propeller scars and blowholes. Propeller scars are created when the metal propeller, spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute, cuts deep into the root and rhizome system of the plants, leaving a furrow that can stretch across the grass bed. A depression called a blowhole forms when the boat operator grounds the boat and then tries to "motor off" using the engine. The engine not only digs in a circular shaped blowhole, but forces sediment into a pile or berm that covers and harms nearby grasses.
Blowholes and prop scars can take as long as seven to ten years to heal, primarily because seagrass plants are not capable of growing downward, away from light, into the damaged area. Currents can also wash away loose sediments and prevent the establishment of new plants. Repeated damage from boaters over time can result in habitat fragmentation and the erosion of the entire banktop. 

To address the loss of seagrass habitat due to boating impacts, scientists have developed techniques to repair damaged areas. The first step in the restoration process is to fill the scar or hole so that it is level with the surrounding area. Small rocks and gravel are used to fill the holes and scars first and a layer of finer sediments is placed on top. Shoal grass shoots are then carefully transplanted to the site. In time, this fast-growing species stabilizes loose sediments and promotes the establishment of the slower-growing climax species like turtle grass. 

In some sites, "bird stakes" are used in the restoration process. The relatively small T-shaped stakes, which are attractive bird perches, are pounded into the sediments along the length of the prop scar. The use of stakes to attract birds provides a natural way to fertilize seagrass beds as bird feces are high in nutrients needed by the growing seagrass. After one or two years, when the grass plants have established themselves, the stakes are removed to prevent over-fertilization of the site. Rather than leaving the site to recover on its own, restoration activities have significantly reduced the amount of time required for damaged seagrass beds in the monitoring area to recover.
                                                                             
Help Us Protect Restoration Efforts:
                                                                         
There are currently more than 30 seagrass restoration projects are underway across Florida, many of them in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Marine Sanctuary protects over 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadow, mangrove communities and sand flats.
                                                                          
With the newly elected administration in Florida threatening to make severe cuts to environmental restoration projects as well as a legislature that is largely apathetic to environmental causes, it is important for citizens to let their voices be heard. Please sign the petition and consider Becoming a Member of Save Our Shores! Florida today.
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Sonic Death: Blasting the Oceans in Pursuit of Oil

"In the darkness of the sea, many species of fish and marine mammals have evolved to rely on sound for navigating, finding food, locating mates, avoiding predators, and communicating. As we continue to develop and industrialize our coasts, we are substantially altering the acoustic environment vital to ocean life." - Michael Jasny (Senior Policy Analyst, NRDC).
Underwater Exploitation:

The push to open Florida's coasts to offshore oil drilling brings to light many more issues than just the damage to Florida's white sand beaches and tourism industry. One of the most disturbing of these issues is the destructive scale of ocean floor mapping that is necessary before drillers "break ground" on new projects. The science behind ocean floor mapping is frightening.

To map the ocean floor, the oil and gas industry typically relies on airguns, which fire sonic blasts of up to 260 decibels (db). These airguns are towed behind boats in long arrays, firing shots of compressed air into the water approximately every ten seconds. The intense pulses that they produce travel down through the water column, penetrate the seafloor, and rebound to the surface where they can be analyzed.

These blasts have been called the most intrusive form of man-made undersea noise short of naval warfare, and with good reason.

A 260 db sound is very intense. As a comparison, damage to human hearing starts at 85 db. A police siren from thirty meters is about 100 db. Decibels are logarithmic, meaning every 10 db increase translates into roughly ten times more intensity, and sounds approximately twice as loud to the human ear, which also perceives sound logarithmically. That means the 260 db airgun blast translates to ten quadrillion times more intensity than a police siren at thirty meters, and would sound to humans about 16,384 times as loud.

The threshold at which humans can die from sound alone is 160 db.

A loud indoor rock concert weighs in at around 120 db: whales and other creatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico would be subjected to sounds 100 trillion times more intense than that.

Death from sound occurs because sound is a pressure wave. This is why you can feel your body vibrate during loud, low sounds (such as those felt during a concert). Intense waves can rip ear, lung, and other vibrating tissues. They also cause internal bleeding. Two hundred and sixty decibels is 10,000 times more intense than the sound of a nuclear explosion at a range of five hundred meters. Yet, this is what marine life off the coast of Florida will be subjected to in the name of offshore drilling.

It has been well established that the high-intensity pulses produced by airguns can cause a range of impacts on marine mammals, fish, and other marine life, including habitat displacement, disruption of vital behaviors essential to foraging and breeding, loss of biological diversity, beach strandings and mortalities. That's right: whales, dolphins and other marine animals that rely on the ocean for life would rather throw themselves on the beaches than be subjected to this literally deadly noise.

Airgun surveys also have dire consequences for the health of fisheries. Airguns have been known to dramatically reduce catch rates of commercial species over thousands of square kilometers, leading fishermen in some parts of the world to seek industry compensation for their losses. In fact, this is occurring in Norway at the present time.

The Minerals Management Service has made no attempt to account for the impacts of airgun surveys on foraging rates and other essential behaviors in any marine species (including endangered ones). And, unfortunately, the mitigation measures prescribed by the MMS are completely inadequate to redress the environmental harms that the science has identified.

We Need Your Help:

Help us in our call to stop offshore drilling and oil exploration from becoming a reality off Florida's coasts. Here are some things you can do:

Become a Member. We need funding to run our campaigns and to organize citizens across the state. Click here to join.

Write a letter to your elected officials. Simply follow the link below and enter your address. You’ll be able to send an e-mail or a printed letter to your senators, representatives, and the Governor. Contact your elected officials.

Write a letter to the editor. Letters of support to your local newspapers are an easy way to educate the public about offshore drilling and to influence the opinions of local decision-makers. Here is the contact information for several major state newspapers:

The Miami Herald
The Orlando Sentinel
The St. Petersburg Times
The Tallahassee Democrat
Tampa Bay Online
Daytona Beach News Journal



Credits:
Dr. Christopher Clark, director of Cornell’s Bioacoustics Research Program
Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame: The Problem of Civilization
Michael Jasny, Senior Policy Analyst, National Resources Defense Council
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