algae

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This stringy, snotty stuff is algae, not seagrass — but it sure is green.

It is a hopeful sign that the all-knowing experts finally see the blatantly obvious algae problem (“Scientists sound early alarm on stringy algae,” https://bit.ly/3ehqQxLs). How are they only seeing this now? Why have these experts buried their heads in the sand for decades? I have personally pointed out these problems to everyone who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) for decades, including FWC scientists.

I vividly remember a discussion with one of these experts — Dr. David Tomasko, a scientist with eSouthwest Florida Water Management District — about 15 years ago at a Tringali meeting. Dr. Tomasko was bragging about how healthy Lemon Bay seagrasses were, and his aerial photographs showed that — except the coverage was algae, not attached seagrasses. He and others just continued to ignore my urgent pleas to save our waters and economies.

The article, by Betsy Calvert, says that uncontrolled algae could eventually kill our sport fish. Well, duh! Wake up, folks! Out snook, redfish and trout have been closed the past two years and are at least one more because red tide devastated fish stocks. Could eventually? How about “has already?”

This is the mindset of our paid experts that oversee water quality issues. It’s all fine, no real problems — just occasional red tides and deadly algal blooms, but nothing to be concerned about.

The article goes on to point out how Charlotte Harbor is listed as one of the state’s cleaner bodies of water. Really? Just because we saved the mangroves around the shorelines does not indicate clean waters. The mangroves look great today. What about the freezes that kill them? Or Hurricane Charley, which devastated most of the Harbor shorelines and islands to Sanibel?

I’ve lived on and from these waters since 1981. I’m telling you, we need to wake up and smell the stinky algae — it is killing our waters! Continue to ignore me if you like, but the costs will continue to grow exponentially the longer we delay. I’m near the end of my journey here, so this is not for me. It’s for you younger folks. I’m pleading that we all wake up and make accurate assessments as our waters degrade.

I understand it’s expensive to address runoff and septic problems. Our leaders are attempting to grasp the costs, but they’ve become addicted to growth and the additional property tax income it brings to local governments. Politically, it’s a lot easier to encourage development than it is to spend big money on infrastructure projects — no matter how badly we need them.

Lemon Bay and Gasparilla Sound are suffering from growth nutrient problems. Just look at the growth in these areas over the last 20 years and consider its impact on our waters. Look at the boat traffic on our waterways. Factor in all the traffic on our improved local roads — that alone creates significant runoff. Local algae growth is a big problem and growing.

The article’s information is educational and well done. I’m just shocked that Mr. Blewett could state that filamentous algae blooms are “a warning sign that trouble could be around the corner” for local sportfishing.

He appears to have no clue that our harvest closures have had a significant impact on my and other inshore guides’ income. I can assure you it has impacted bait and tackle sales also! People come here to fish, and most of them like to keep some to eat. When the seasons shut down, they stopped coming. Fishing tourism is way off. Tarpon season is all we have now.

I will take this opportunity to invite Swiftmud’s Dr. Chris Anastasiou to allow me to show him some to the problems we are dealing with in Lemon Bay and surrounding waters. I welcome the chance to share our extensive experiences regarding Southwest Florida water quality. I want to help identify and resolve problems, not add to our already mounting challenges. We must involve the folks that live on local waters — not just scientists touting their aerial photographs as evidence — if we’re going to properly address water quality issues.

I do understand that government employees might need to be careful to protect their jobs. But we all must force these issues to attention now or the future looks bleak. The only thing more expensive than addressing problems now is ignoring them and letting them grow.

Remember that you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishin’, so let’s go fishin’ soon.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

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