House Speaker Chris Sprowls took a boat tour with scientists Tuesday to discuss manatee health and red tide in Florida.
The meeting comes as environmental factors such as algae blooms threaten the safety of Florida’s marine life and sea cow populations.
According to the Speaker’s Office, 880 manatees have died so far this year. By comparison, the previous record was 830 manatee deaths in all of 2013.
“The number of manatee deaths this year and the impacts of red tide on residents, tourism and the environment are devastating,” said Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican. “It’s critical we learn more about the issues and the challenges of current research to make informed decisions about how public policy and legislation can improve the situation.”
Sprowls met with scientists from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The group also explored the reaching impacts of algae blooms on resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
James “Buddy” Powell, Executive Director of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, said, “There is an unfortunate culmination of circumstances impacting manatees in Florida. Our role as researchers is to provide the data so that policymakers are able to make informed decisions and act to save our beloved sea cow,”
In a press release, the Speaker’s Office noted that Florida’s environmental issues have not gone unnoticed. Last Session, the Legislature appropriated $8 million for manatee habitat restoration.
“The funding will be used to restore manatee access to springs and provide habitat restoration in manatee-concentrated areas,” the Speaker’s Office said in the release.
Additionally, the Legislature has provided millions over the years to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for red tide research, mitigation and “innovative technology projects.”
The 2022 Legislative Session kicks off Jan. 11. The House and Senate will hold six weeks of pre-Session committee meetings beginning in September.