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Florida Fish Kill 2010

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On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 1:47PM | By: Lee Clymer

In January of this year I did a boat delivery from Tarpon Springs to Port Canaveral. If you remember, and if you were here I know you do, it was cold. It was real cold. It was the coldest it had been in decades and it hung on like a scared cat in a tree. Some days, the highs were only in the forties in some areas and the nights…well, let’s just say I didn’t go out at night with my thin blood from years of living in Florida. I don’t like the chill I get from getting something out of the fridge.

Along the way I sadly observed dead fish literally by the hundreds, maybe thousands, in some places. Even shallow Lake Okeechobee was dotted with dead fish as if an underwater explosion of massive proportion had taken place. Throughout the waterway the scene remained the same for the whole trip.

When we finally arrived at the port and docked, snook that weren’t already floating were stacked in the shallows lethargically attempting to maintain a modicum of warmth by slowly swimming as close to the surface as possible. I’m not talking about small snook either. They ranged up to the three foot range easily.

Seeing all these snook huddled together for warmth gave me a bad feeling Mother Nature was out for some type of revenge, and was on a vindictive tear, the likes of which we hadn’t seen for a long time. I was right. According to the FWC it is impossible to determine the numbers of each species, but it was significant. It will take a long-term monitoring process to determine the true effects, and that may take years. Some say there were as many as one million snook killed. It’s not likely we will ever know exact number or even close guesstimates.

Believe it or not, however, there is good news. The fish that died fall under the survival of the fittest rule and will, according to a lot of people far more knowledgeable than I, actually make the hardest hit brands of fish stronger. Those primary brands being snook and tarpon.

There are different, and longer in some cases, season closures for various fish and if there’s a question, zip over to FWC for the latest information. It’s also a printable PDF for your boat’s cubby, and it has twenty pages of other usable stuff for your convenience. Print what you want and leave the rest.

Additionally, there’s a bit of good information at FWC Rules that clears up any questions related to season changes due to the fish kill. It’s worth taking a moment to review, just so you don’t get that FWC officer dropping by your boat and leaving a mandated request for funds to be donated to the state outside of your regularly scheduled yearly license.

While on the subject of fish kills, the St. John’s had a strange thing happen to a lot of redfish. Scientist determined something is destroying the red blood cells in them, stingrays, and gar. Bloody eyes, livers, and other internal tissues have been mysteriously found. It’s not unusual to have summer fish kills, but this type is extremely out of the ordinary. Summer algae blooms suck the oxygen from the water in different areas from time to time, but this is something unknown for now and completely different.

Political leaders have called for the same type of support the Everglades has gotten for restoration, and Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine has taken the ball and says he will run with it.

There have been a few other fish kills since the May deaths, but they seem to have occurred due to natural causes. Scientists say avoid obviously sick fish for dinner (really? I’m stunned) but that most fish are safely edible.

Just as a note to those constant gardeners out that there: Keep those grass clippings and other yard waste out of the street drains if you live near the water, and who in Florida doesn’t? Those clippings add to the fish kills by providing fuel for the algae blooms during decomposition. Help keep our waterways healthy and happy by sweeping up and ensuring the yard waste is properly disposed.


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