Captains For Clean Water
On average, billions of gallons of nutrient-laden fresh water flow into our lower estuaries via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers every day. The concern to our estuaries is not just that these unnatural discharges contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicide, high nutrient loads and bacteria which have led to public health warnings; the volume of the fresh water alone is enough to disrupt our fragile marine ecosystems. The nutrients, and other pollutants, enter our waters through agricultural and urban areas in the center of the state, mostly north of Lake Okeechobee. Thankfully, with cooperation of farmers throughout the state, we have slowly been able to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen loads that enter the water supply, yet nutrient levels remain much higher than natural lake and and river water.
Under normal circumstances, Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers may not contribute substantial nutrients to this water supply. When we experience heavy rains, however, sugar and other farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee flood. That water is then drained into ditches and ultimately pumped into Lake Okeechobee. This practice is known as back-pumping, and it adds fair amount of fresh water and nutrients to the lake. Back-pumping doesn’t happen on a daily basis, only during periods of heavy rains. The practice is justified in the name of reducing flood risk in largely agricultural areas south of Lake Okeechobee, however it is arguably a violation of the intent of the Clean Water Act and works mostly to the benefit of agricultural corporations operating in the EAA. And it is just one example of the many Lake Okeechobee water mismanagement issues facing our state.
The excess nutrients in Lake Okeechobee discharge water works to fuel toxic algae blooms in our marine (salt and freshwater) environments. The nutrients also have the potential to “fertilize” an already present red tide organism. These recurring fresh water discharges can create two deadly options for marine life in our estuaries: die in the fresh water discharge or be washed out to sea into a supercharged red tide bloom.
The murky, turbid Lake Okeechobee discharge water also kills seagrass, oysters and other life on the sea floor. It blocks light from reaching the seagrass and prohibits photosynthesis. Prolonged exposure to low salinity also kills grass, oysters, and other marine life.
Our seagrass beds and oysters are the foundation of estuarial marine life and an incredible natural filter. Without them, our estuary ecosystems face an uncertain future.
For many years we have witnessed, first hand, a decline in the lower Caloosahatchee, Pine Island Sound, and Indian River Lagoon estuaries due to this long term water mismanagement. While we drown in fresh water, Florida Bay is suffering from a lack of it, causing the water to become too salty to support critical sea life.
Our state needs land in the Everglades Agricultural Area necessary to clean the Lake Okeechobee discharge water in an attempt to restore natural sheet flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. This will take large tracts of contiguous land for the construction of storm water treatment areas that will substantially reduce phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the water. Nutrient reduction is critical so we do not simply send our problem south.
We have a long-term solution that is backed by science, yet politicians and certain interested agricultural corporations are busy finger-pointing and spending money pursuing half-measures and unsustainable so-called “solutions”.
Some land must be acquired in the EAA to treat and convey Lake Okeechobee water south to restore the natural flow of lake waters. Amendment 1 (2014), which passed with a 75% majority and is now a part of the Florida Constitution, specifically provides funding for these land purchases. Approximately 1.5 billion dollars in Amendment 1 funds have been spent by the legislature in 2015 and 2016 without any significant land acquisitions – or even specific land acquisition plans – south of Lake Okeechobee.
The reoccurring state of emergency in South Florida is a painful reminder of the government’s lack of concern for our local ecosystems and economy. Fishing guides are often the first to feel the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges, but we guides are not the only ones feeling the economic impacts of muddy, nutrient-rich discharge waters flooding our beaches and coastal estuaries. While fishing is a $5 to 8 billion industry in our state, Florida also relies upon a $67 billion tourism industry as the engine of a robust economy.
We have the opportunity to fix this recurring problem utilizing funds readily available through Amendment 1, but time is of the essence. We must take action now on the only viable long-term solution available – restoring the natural flow by purchasing land to treat and convey Lake Okeechobee water south.
We who depend on the water for our income are losing faith as we watch our estuaries die before our eyes. The only way we will be able to sleep at night is to know that we are acting to implement a real, long-term solution.
We have a problem that is destroying our local natural resources and damaging our economy. We have a solution. What is holding us back?
The International Game Fish Association
Location: 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004
The International Game Fish Association is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization, supported by its membership and governed by an Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. An elected International Committee of more than 300 sport fishermen and women represents the IGFA in fishing areas throughout the world. International Committee members act as liaisons between recreational fishermen, fishing clubs, local governments and fishery agencies in their areas and IGFA headquarters.
IGFA’s objectives are founded on the beliefs that game fish species, related food fish, and their habitats are economic, social, recreational, and aesthetic assets which must be maintained, wisely used and perpetuated; and that the sport of angling is an important recreational, economic, and social activity which the public must be educated to pursue in a manner consistent with sound sporting and conservation practices.
The purpose of IGFA, as set forth in the early bylaws, is: “to encourage the study of game fishes for the sake of whatever pleasure, information, or benefit it may provide; to keep the sport of game fishing ethical, and to make its rules acceptable to the majority of anglers; to encourage this sport both as recreation and as a potential source of scientific data; to place such data at the disposal of as many human beings as possible; and to keep an attested and up-to-date chart of world record catches.” The founding fathers of IGFA – including such sportfishing greats as Michael Lerner, Van Campen Heilner, Clive Firth, and Ernest Hemingway – obviously had foresight; the basic purposes they set forth have increased in importance through the years. Today’s IGFA has not changed these goals; rather it has brought them to the attention of the angling public, enlarged upon them, added to them, and adapted them to the current and increasing needs of the sportfishing community.
IGFA maintains and publishes world records for saltwater, freshwater, fly fishing catches, U.S. state freshwater records, and junior angler records, awarding certificates of recognition to each record holder. Recognized as the official keeper of world saltwater fishing records since 1939, IGFA entered the field of freshwater record keeping when Field & Stream transferred its 68 years of records to the association in 1978.
Hell’s Bay and the IGFA
Both Chris and Wendi Peterson are lifetime members of the International Game Fish Association and are honored that Hell’s Bay Boatworks skiffs are the official shallow water skiffs of the IGFA.
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Location: 24 Dockside Lane PMB 83, Key Largo, FL 33037
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is a group of concerned anglers and guides who want to preserve their way of life. Scientists working to answer questions about these popular and elusive gamefish. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is this and more. It was formed in 1998 by a group of anglers, guides, and scientists in the Florida Keys who wanted to learn more about bonefish and tarpon in order to enhance their dwindling populations. Since then it has grown to include concerned anglers from over 20 countries, researchers from throughout the world, and guides committed to working with BTT in order to educate anglers and gather data while on the water.
Our Mission is to support research to help understand, nurture, and enhance healthy bonefish, tarpon, and permit populations by engaging in the following:
1.Serving as a repository for information and knowledge related to the life cycle, behavior and well being of bonefish, tarpon and permit.
2.Nurturing and enhancing bonefish, tarpon, and permit populations.
3.Supporting research on bonefish, tarpon, and permit behavior and life cycles, and on bonefish, tarpon, and permit fisheries.
4.Providing educational material to the public and fishermen.
5.Working with regulatory authorities and the public to ensure that the laws protecting these species are enforced.
6.Interacting with government agencies to assist in the management and regulations related to bonefish and tarpon.
Hell’s Bay Boatworks has been actively participating in Bonefish and Tarpon Trust events for the last several years. Hell’s Bay Boatworks dontated a new Waterman Skiff as grand prize in the Bonefish Tarpon Trust sweepstakes as well as a HB Whipray for use on research projects. Hell’s Bay Boatworks also organizes the Fly Fishing Film Tour with all proceeds from this event going to BTT.
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Location: 10408 West State Road 84 Suite #104, Davie, FL, 33324
Phone: 954- 581-0073
The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is committed to developing new strategies for sensible fisheries management, encouraging cooperation of commercial and recreational fishers and creating novel programs to stimulate future scientists and new stewards of the marine environments. The ultimate aim is to provide sound science and education to create logical solutions to a wide range of marine conservation challenges.
The Foundation helps ensure that future generations will enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem where fish and other marine wildlife flourish. Through the support of the Foundation’s visionary friends, leading scientists are able to develop new strategies for sensible fisheries management, encourage the cooperation of commercial and recreational fishers. In addition, educators are be able to create novel instructional programs to stimulate future scientists and new stewards of the marine environment.
Save The Sawfish
Film in conjunction with the University of Florida, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation & Hell’s Bay Boatworks.
University of Florida Ichthyology Division
Location: Florida Museum of Natural History
Dickinson Hall, Icthyology Dept. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611
The Florida Museum of Natural History, located at the University of Florida, is Florida’s state museum of natural history, dedicated to understanding, preserving and interpreting biological diversity and cultural heritage. The Ichthyology division works closely with many organizations involved in the study and conservation of fishes and sharks including the National Shark Research Consortium (NSRC), the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) and the Sawfish Recovery Team (SRT).
Shark Research – The Florida Program for Shark Research (FPSR) is involved in many areas of shark research, including shark biology, ecology, and behavior. In addition, the FPSR monitors shark attacks through the International Shark Attack File and promotes shark conservation and educational outreach through such programs as Project Shark Awareness.
Sawfish Recovery Team – The Sawfish Recovery Team (SRT) seeks to promote the conservation of threatened sawfish populations around the world. Very little is known about this unique type of ray which used to be very abundant in the tropics. Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) have recently been listed for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Freshwater Research – Degradation of freshwater ecosystems is severe in many parts of the world, and freshwater species are among the most endangered species. Conservation biologists and resource managers depend on accurate taxonomic information and museum collection records for prioritizing areas for protection and for making informed species-specific management policies. Major projects at the FLMNH on freshwater fishes include the Freshwater Fishes of Florida, a revision of the Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes (to be published in 2011), and the All Cypriniformes Species Inventory (http://www.cypriniformes.org).