As anglers we have a duty to protect and care for our oceans and the ecosystems within them. This isn't something that we just need to do but we have to in order to sustain Florida’s amazing fisheries on both coasts. Since understanding the importance and the urgency of this topic I have become a huge advocate and for someone born and raised on the water I want to help all that I can.
Florida without a doubt has some of the best saltwater fishing in the world. With places such as the everglades and the Florida Keys the sunshine state has become a paradise for captains and avid anglers like myself. However, Florida recently has began to face a crisis that could impact some of these popular destinations dramatically.
The issues Florida is facing stem from certain engineering and construction within lake okeechobee. This lake is Floridas largest body of water found inland and it plays a huge part in natural water flow to certain parts of the state. The problem with this however, is that Lake Okeechobee has been cutoff due to construction and man made canals. The historic natural water flow that this lake use to provide to south Florida is now prohibited. This lake now has two canals or water ways on each side of Floridas coast. On the west coast we have the Caloosahatchee River and on the east coast there is the St Lucie Canal. Once the water level in lake Okeechobee is to high water is then flushed through each of these canals out into the saltwater. This process has created a lot of issues with the inshore fishery on both coasts. There have been massive algae blooms, fish kills and devastating destruction to grass flats. Bird, mammal, and other animal populations are also being impacted by this issue. Not only will this issue hurt and potentially ruin some inshore environments in locations but it will have a huge impact on the fishing and tourist industry. People aren’t going to want to vacation to these areas anymore because it'll no longer look and feel like paradise. This will hurt small businesses on both sides of the coast that depend on there area to attract tourists as well as anglers. Most importantly what happens to all the fishing captains who make a living on the water? These are important factors we have to take into consideration as a community and act upon it quick.
For me along with many others the solution seems very simple; restore Lake Okeechobee’s natural water flow south towards the everglades. The everglades is one of the last few historic parks this country has to offer and to lose it over something so simple would be heartbreaking. The beauty and solidarity this park has when your exploring down there is breathtaking. The endless mangrove canals and shorelines and of course the awesome year around fishery is unbeatable. Since these issues have occurred the everglades hasn’t be receiving the fresh water it needs to balance out south Florida. Of course before this happens there are a lot of details that go into this process. Since there are water quality regulations for the everglades we can’t just send all of the polluted water south at once. However, as the water slowly travels south, Florida’s wetlands will naturally clean and purify the water on its own.
The problems and solutions have been made clear within the “Captains For Clean Water” community. This a vast movement within the fishing community and many support the cause. The quicker we act, the faster we can move forward with these solutions. As an angler I want not only my time on the water to be enjoyable but future generations as well. There is only one everglades in the world so together lets make sure it stays that way!