Reporter shines light on lagoon issues, spending as well as all of Brevard's environment

·4 min read
Manatees huddle together in the warm water of the Desoto Canal in Satellite Beach Friday morning.
Manatees huddle together in the warm water of the Desoto Canal in Satellite Beach Friday morning.

Dear FLORIDA TODAY Subscribers,

This week we're literally talking about the world around us.

Before I dive too far into today's newsletter, I would be remiss in not saying, once again, thank you for subscribing to FLORIDA TODAY and supporting local journalism and journalists like environment reporter Jim Waymer.

This week, Jim brought you the story of a co-owner of the Boston Celtics making a sizable donation to help Florida's iconic marine mammal - the manatee.

You can read that story here.

While this week his story focused on a positive donation to help a single species, Jim's award-winning journalism digs deep into Brevard's past - literally - to show what dangers await the residents of our community.

While he's generally shy and speaks like every word costs him a dollar, Jim makes up for it when he's writing stories. Beautifully written with such magnificent descriptive detail, you feel like you're at the scene with him.

Covering the environment never has a dull moment for Jim who says he always learns something new. He says the beat is fascinating and inspiring.

I asked Jim this week what was the scariest thing he'd reported on since starting his career with FLORIDA TODAY.

"What started just before 2011 with the phytoplankton 'super booms'," he said. "Then it all hit the ecological fan, resulting in last year's record 1,101 manatee deaths."

Jim said it was scary because of how quickly years of improvement for the manatees, a protected threatened species, were erased virtually overnight, and what the cascading effects could mean.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration formally designated last year as an unusual mortality event, triggering federal resources to investigate what's happening," Jim said. "But these investigations rarely yield solid conclusions, so the situation is far from resolved."

We so often on the Space Coast hear of how horribly we're treating the environment and that we're causing epic challenges to the Indian River Lagoon. I wanted to get Jim's thoughts to share with you. So I asked him: Is humanity bad for the Space Coast?

"It doesn't have to be bad," Jim said. "We have the technology. This is where humanity launched men to the moon, right? The money/politics is another story. Critics of manatee protections say scientists need to figure out the so-called carrying capacity of the Indian River Lagoon to sustain the numbers of sea cows in the estuary. I've heard biologists say that the real issue is the carrying capacity of humans living on the lagoon watershed."

The lagoon has been a massive focus of Jim's work since his arrival and it doesn't look to be taking a back seat to anything in the near future. But I really wanted to get a pulse on what the overall outlook was for Brevard's very unique estuary system.

"It depends upon the frequency, intensity and duration of algae blooms," Jim said. "Climate patterns will drive that. When we get heavy rains, the runoff fuels the microalgae growth, which clouds the water and blocks sunlight from reaching seagrass on the lagoon bottom. Seagrass is the linchpin of the lagoon's ecosystem."

Look for seagrass to come up a lot in the coming months. Jim says he's currently working on stories about the water plants, what and where they thrive, and what we need to get a massive return of seagrass to the overall estuary.

He's also going to be looking at how the voter approved half-cent sales tax is being spent to improve the lagoon's overall quality and if the projects are working.

You can read Jim's latest work here. I've also included the manatee story down below.

You can reach Jim via email at jwaymer@floridatoday.com or find him on Twitter at @JWayEnviro.

And as always, you can reach me at rlanders@floridatoday.com. Or you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or YouTube (just click the name, the internet will do the rest).

Thank you again for subscription and your continued support of local journalism.

Rob Landers

Sr. Multimedia Editor

FLORIDA TODAY

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Reporter shines light on lagoon issues, spending as well as all of Brevard's environment