Along the east coast of Florida, the bottlenose dolphins of the Indian River Lagoon are dying at an alarming rate. In 2008, 43 dolphins died, and in 2009, 48 dolphins died. Dolphins have been found emaciated and suffering from respiratory failure. Many of them exhibit skin-eating fungal infections, tumors, and brain lesions.
These deaths have been linked to increases in nitrogen and phosphorus levels, both of which are pollutants caused by the overuse of turf fertilizer. Lawn owners, unknowingly, are applying these fertilizers too heavily. Proper application would cause less damage to Florida waterways, while still allowing for healthy lawns. Proper usage will also save lawn owners time and money.
Tell local County Commissioners in Palm Beach County, Indian River County, St. Lucie County, Brevard County,and Volusia County to stop over-fertilization of lawns because it is harming dolphins and other marine life.
Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels contribute to the death of dolphins. Excess nutrients lead to toxic algal blooms, "red tides," and ocean dead zones. Dolphin deaths were at their highest during the summer months when nitrogen (nutrients) and chlorophyll A (algae) levels were at their highest.
Phosphorus and nitrogen have become a problem due to expanding use of turf fertilizer. Vast amounts are applied to everything from lawns to tomatoes to pine trees. Most fertilizers are applied in excessive amounts. While agriculture was found to over fertilize by 100%, lawns were over fertilized by 500%. If applied during summer rains, fertilizer nutrients wash unchecked into waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the Indian River Lagoon gets more than 400,000 pounds of phosphorus per year - 200,000 pounds more than it can sustain. The Lagoon receives over 3 million pounds of nitrogen per year. This is over 1 million pounds in excess than can be absorbed.
We can greatly reduce nutrient pollution in the Indian River Lagoon and lessen our subsequent role in the deaths of the Lagoon dolphins by using fertilizers with at least 50% slow release nitrogen, respect setbacks from waterways, and not apply them during the rainy season when it does not help lawns and hurts marine life.
I urge you to enact a county ordinance that tells the proper application of lawn fertilizers. Let’s keep lawns healthy without causing green slimy ocean water and dead dolphins. Lawn by lawn, county by county, we can save the entire Indian River Lagoon ecosystem that we all enjoy.