Day after day, dolphins floated up dead, emaciated down to their skeletons. Florida's Indian River Lagoon, considered one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, was in dire crisis.
And it wasn't just the 46 dead bottlenose dolphins. The casualty list is long and depressing: gone are 47,000 acres of sea grass beds, 111 manatees, and 300 pelicans, reports Fox News.
It's been described as a "killing zone" and a "mass murder mystery" that is perplexing biologists.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that scientists believe it may be due to one or several causes: fertilizer-laced stormwater runoff, polluted water dumped from Lake Okeechobee by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, climate change and effects on acidity, changes in water temperature and salt levels, and overflow from contaminated mosquito-control ditches.
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University was counting on $2 million in state funds to study the dead bodies piling up at Indian River Lagoon.
Except Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the research project in May, writing in his veto letter “While some water projects may also contribute to a statewide objective, not all projects demonstrate an ability to contribute to a statewide investment.”
Since Scott took office in 2009, his smaller government approach has slashed regulation and conservation programs, reports the Broward New Times.
Scott also recently put the state's water quality under the DEP as opposed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
"The new changes would be significant because many are less-stringent than the bare minimum recommended by the Environmental Protection Agencyand existing standards in Alabama," a former member of Florida's Environmental Regulation Commission told the Orlando Sentinel.
Meanwhile Marty Baum of the Indian Riverkeeper told Fox News, “The lagoon is in a full collapse, it is ongoing.”

Biologists race to solve mysterious mass animal deaths in Florida lagoon

At least 111 manatees, 300 pelicans, and 46 dolphins — emaciated to the point of skin and bones — were all found dead in America’s most biologically diverse estuary.

Something is seriously wrong. The northern stretches of the Indian River Lagoon of Florida has a mass murder mystery that biologists are racing to figure out. The lagoon contains more species than anywhere else in the U.S. It is a barrier island complex stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s coast, around Cape Canaveral, and consisting of the Mosquito Lagoon, the Banana River and the Indian River Lagoon.

The lagoon has always been polluted by nutrients and fertilizers running off lawns and farms, but in recent years it appears to have reached some sort of tipping point, says Marty Baum of the Indian Riverkeeper.

“The lagoon is in a full collapse, it is ongoing,” he said.

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Posted: Aug 7, 2013 4:21 PM CT 

Last Updated: Aug 7, 2013 7:31 PM CT