‘Responsibility to protect’: Biscayne Bay manatee population faces yet another threat

Miami-Dade County commissioners are allowing the Miami International Boat Show to test boats in February in an area that is part of the manatees’ habitat.

MIAMI – Lee Hefty said he is concerned about the manatees that need to be able to rest, feed and take care of their young in Biscayne Bay.

Miami-Dade County commissioners are allowing the 2022 Miami International Boat Show to test boats in February in an area that is part of the manatees’ habitat.

Hefty, the director of the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management, or DERM, said commissioners faced a challenging decision to balance public good and environmental protection.

“Manatees are actually starving to death all over the state right now because they’re not finding food, so everything that happens on the water that causes you to either be scared away or makes you stay in one area and not look for food — even if it’s just vessel traffic not running you over — those are things that are potentially injurious to the species,” Hefty said on Sunday during This Week In South Florida.

FILE - A manatee comes up for air is it swims in the Stranahan River, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 2, 2020. More than 1,000 manatees have died in Florida so far in 2021, eclipsing a previous record as the threatened marine mammals struggle with starvation due to polluted waters. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Federal and state officials have yet to sign off on the boat show’s petition to run more than 100 sea trials for potential buyers, east of Miami’s Arts and Entertainment District. The show is also increasing banknotes from about 630 to 947.

“We live in an amazing place on this planet ... Along with that comes the responsibility to protect the resources so that our children and their children can enjoy the same beauty,” Hefty said.

The Miami International Boat Show released a statement saying they are committed to running a program to protect the manatees.

“I think the concern that we have in the long run is this particular area is not appropriate for years and years of the same kind of activity going forward,” Hefty said.

Watch the full episode of TWISF

Today's This Week In South Florida includes interviews about the coronavirus pandemic, a new threat to manatees in Biscayne Bay and NFTs at Art Basel Miami Beach.

More about manatees

In this Dec. 28, 2010, file photo, a group of manatees are in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Manatees are starving to death by the hundreds along Florida's east coast because algae blooms and contaminants are killing the sea grass the beloved sea mammals eat, a wildlife official told a Florida House committee on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."