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A Voice for Our Ocean

STATEMENT: Florida Lawmakers Must Take Action as State Faces Tremendous Environmental Challenges

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ST PETERSBURG, Fla. – With the 2022 legislative session underway in Tallahassee, Ocean Conservancy, the nation’s oldest marine conservation non-profit organization, says lawmakers need to prioritize preserving and protecting our oceans and coasts.

More than one thousand manatees died last year, the worst on record. Florida also lost tens of thousands of acres of seagrass in critical ecosystems like the Indian River Lagoon. The west coast red tide event killed thousands of tons of fish and had devastating impacts on the coastal economy. And the Piney Point disaster shocked the nation, as more than four hundred million gallons of toxic, nutrient-rich water was pumped into Tampa Bay.

“Florida is blessed with incredible ocean, coastal environments, and wildlife. We must do everything we can to protect our pristine waterways, not just for us, but for future generations,” said J.P. Brooker, director of Florida Conservation for Ocean Conservancy. “That’s why legislators need to make targeted improvements to ensure clean, healthy waters this legislative session.”

Ocean Conservancy wants state lawmakers to strengthen the effectiveness of Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) by making a small change to existing Florida Statute (in 373.807(1) and 403.67(7)) in order to ensure the projects and strategies contained in these plans achieve their intended goal – improved water quality.

Ocean Conservancy is also encouraging legislators to statutorily establish a permanent Office of Resilience to be led by a statewide Chief Resilience Office and require state departments to use the most recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sea level rise data for statewide projects.

“There’s no consistency as to what sea level rise data agencies should use, and sometimes, they are using incorrect or outdated data,” added Brooker. “That means projects are being built at lower heights, making them more vulnerable to being inundated by a rising sea.”

Lastly, clean healthy beaches are a keystone of Florida’s blue economy, and Ocean Conservancy is urging lawmakers to take precautions to ensure our beaches remain clean, by passing a law that would give municipalities the power to enact smoking bans on their beaches and ban smoking in state parks.

Florida is home to 8 of the best beaches in the U.S. according to Tripadvisor. Millions of tourists come to the Sunshine State to walk along our sandy shores. It shouldn’t look like an ash tray with cigarette butts littered everywhere, which adds to our massive plastic pollution problem,” said Brooker. “Not only that, but people go to the beach to relax, listen to crashing waves, and take in the best sunsets. No one wants to be inhaling second-hand smoke instead of that fresh coastal air.”

For 31 straight years, cigarette butts have been the most commonly found item on Florida beaches during Ocean Conservancy’s annual coastal cleanup. Cigarette butts are made of tightly packed plastic fibers that erode into smaller bits, which accumulate in fish and other organisms. This not only impacts animal health and reproductivity, but also human health when people consume sick fish.

The 2022 Florida legislative session began this week and is scheduled to last 60 days.

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Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker is available for interviews upon request.

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit http://www.oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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