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Entries in Florida (187)

Thursday
Jul212016

Speak Out to Help Stop Destruction of Florida Coastal Fisheries

Florida's coastal fisheries are being destroyed, as the Everglades and Florida Bay are starving for water.

Fed by polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, toxic blue-green algae are coating Florida’s east and west coasts, causing fish kills and closing businesses.

This most recent crisis in South Florida reinforces the need to clean and send the water south, as it would naturally flow, to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay that are starving for freshwater.

The State of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers need to initiate planning this year for water storage, treatment, and flow south of the lake, through the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Edit and send this message to Florida's Governor Scott for a comprehensive evaluation of water storage needs that could benefit the Everglades.

Ten things to know about Florida's harmful algae blooms

 1. What It Is and Where It Came From 

The algae is a cyanobacteria found in Lake Okeechobee, which comes from the runoff containing human waste and fertilizers from nearby farms and ordinary neighborhoods, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other nutrients in the polluted runoff, can act like fertilizer for the algae, creating large and extensive blooms. 

2. Eager Developers Changed Florida's Waterways

In an attempt to spur the economy years ago, Florida land developers and government officials broke up the natural flow of the state's rivers, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to redirect water south from central Florida, according to the Associated Press. The economy did grow as the land was reclaimed from the Everglades for development, but now the unnatural water flow has periodically left rivers and lagoons so toxic with HAB that fish die off, residents become ill and tourists are turned off.

3. The Risks to Humans

If ingested, water contaminated with toxic cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, acute liver failure, according to Florida's FWCC. While there have been no documented cases of anyone becoming ill from drinking water containing these toxins, it remains a concern. The Centers for Disease Control says coming in direct contact with the algae can cause a rash and some research indicates a link between long-term inhalation of toxic algae fumes and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

*   *   *   *

'This is our Deep Water Horizon!' 

"It's time the federal and state government understand how God-awful the problem is here," said Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, referencing the 2010 oil spill that devastated wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico. 

When the algae blooms die, they release toxins that cause rashes and could endanger wildlife.
The foul-smelling problem - which has closed beaches along the Treasure Coast - stems in part from stopgap measures put in place by the feds.

To preserve the aging earthen dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely releases water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

After floods devastated the area around the lake in the wake of a massive 1928 hurricane that killed 2,500 people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began regulating lake water levels to minimise the risk of a dike breach.

Now, local officials are citing the lake discharges as the cause of the spreading blooms - although the South Florida Water Management District said that septic tanks and storm water runoff can also play a role

This season's high temperatures and heavy rainfall have only exacerbated the problem.


Florida algae and politics stink like sh . . . ugar

With a state of emergency covering four Florida counties, the stench and slime from toxic blue-green algae blooms in the state are covering the international media. It’s not a sweet sight, but it smells conspicuously like sugar. Big Sugar, to be exact.

Environmental scientists and experts tirelessly point to agricultural pollution and climate change as major contributors to the monster algae epidemic, but, incredulously, Florida’s political leaders just haven’t figured it out.

*    *    *    *

Eight manatee deaths reported in Florida lagoon plagued by algae

 

Thursday
Jul142016

Will Sugar-Supported Politicians Help or Hinder Restoration of Coastal Waters?

Nutrient-rich waters discharged out of Lake Okeechobee continue to foul and degrade Florida's coastal waters to the east and west with algae blooms.

Before the ecosystem was altered by man for our convenience, for development, agriculture, and flood control, high water flowed south to replenish the Everglades and, eventually, Florida Bay.

That's what needs to happen again to save the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River systems now being destroyed. It also would benefit the Everglades and Florida Bay.

But much of that land to the south is owned by sugar farmers, just as much of the nutrients polluting that water is from those farms.

And many Florida politicians are owned by Big Sugar. For example, U.S. Sugar Corp. is the fourth largest donor to Gov. Rick Scott's political committee.

"The American political system is dominated by big money, and big money talks," said Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation. "But we are hopeful in this crisis that the governor and other decision makers see through any of that."

Find out more about the politics of this issue here.

Tuesday
Jul122016

The Best Bass Lake That You've Never Heard Of

Len Andrews caught this 13-12 largemouth at Kingsley Lake.Why are so many of the lunker bass entered in Florida's TrophyCatch program coming from little Kingsley Lake in the northeastern part of the state?

That's what biologist Drew Dutterer and other researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hope to determine in a two-year study financed with a grant by the federal Sport Fish Restoration program. Information gained  during the two-year project also should help resource managers better understand big bass in general.

"It's an opportunity to learn some things about rare individuals in bass populations at one of the places that seems to produce a lot of them, Dutterer said.

"A lot" is an understatement. The 2,000-acre, semi-private lake (surrounded by private homes and Camp Blanding) has yielded 80 bass of 10 pounds or more since 2013 and a dozen that weighed 13 pounds or better since March of 2014. Last year, 5 of the state's 10 biggest bass came from Kingsley,  and anglers caught two 15-pound trophies in one week, including the state's largest fish of the year,  15-11.

“Trophy bass are a pretty big priority for our agency and for the state of Florida," the biologist said. " It’s one of the identifying characteristics of our Florida bass fishery, and one of the reasons a lot of people come over winter and take fishing vacations in Florida, the chance to catch a big fish."

One aspect of the study involves following the movements of 10 bass of 9 to 13 pounds that have been tagged with transmitters. This could be especially revealing because the lake is far deeper than most in Florida, with at least 300 acres that are 40 feet or more and a few places that drop below 80.

And deep means cooler water during the summer.

"Cooler water may allow bass to live and operate with a slightly lower metabolic rate," Dutterer said. "If Kingsley stratifies and there is cooler water available to the fish in the summer, then they could possibly have a lower metabolism and that could allow them to grow more during the year or it may allow them to live longer."

Additionally, FWC has asked anglers to help by snipping off a bit of a fin on bass of 8 pounds or more  and placing the samples in collection bottles available at the lake. "It's  a proof positive way that we can document that catch and release really does work and leads to increase to increased opportunities to catch trophy fish," the biologist said.

Friday
Jul012016

New Bass Regs. in Effect for Florida

New black bass regulations now are in effect in Florida. Here's  a summary:

  • The previous three black bass fishing zones and 40 areas with special bass regulations have been eliminated.
  • All species of black bass are included in the five fish daily aggregate black bass bag limit. This is the same as the previous statewide rule.
  • Largemouth bass: Only one may be 16 inches or longer in total length per angler, per day, with no minimum length limit.
  • Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses: 12-inch minimum size limit, only one may be 16 inches or longer in total length.

Before developing proposals for amending current regulations, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) staff received input from thousands of bass anglers, and blended angler desires and opinions with decades of fish population research.

“We are confident that these new regulations meet the desires of our bass anglers, ensuring that Florida lakes will continue to produce high quality fisheries,” said Tom Champeau, director of FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries.

“Florida’s reputation for trophy bass is one reason we are known as the Fishing Capital of the World and these new regulations will help provide our anglers with unforgettable fishing experiences.”

Florida is home to five species of black bass: largemouth, Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted bass. Largemouth bass are the state freshwater fish and are found throughout Florida, while the other species are found only in rivers in the north central and northwest regions.

Visit MyFWC.com/fishing and click on “Freshwater,” then “Regulations” for a copy of the complete regulations.

One of the primary goals of the new regulations is to protect larger trophy bass desired by most anglers. The TrophyCatch program offers great prizes for anglers who document and release largemouth bass weighing eight pounds or heavier. Visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com for more details and to register for the program.

Monday
Jun272016

FWC Bows to Pressure from Animal Rights Activists, Cancels Second Bear Hunt

Bowing to organized and intense pressure from animal rights activists, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  has voted 4 to 3 to cancel a bear hunt this fall.  In other words, politics trumped science-based management of our fish and wildlife, just as happened in the Northwest, where Washington and Oregon have removed limits on bass and other "nonnative" warmwater species.

More and more the political correctness madness that infects so much of this country is creeping into strategies for managing our natural resources.

Not that facts matter anymore, but here are some interesting ones:

In 1975, the human population in Florida was 8.518 million, while the bear population was estimated at between 300 and 500.

In 2014, the human population was 19.89 million.  The most recent estimate of the bear population is 4,350.

Now consider that a human population increase of more than 100 percent has demanded development of vast areas of land that once likely was prime habitat. Meanwhile, the bear population has increased by more than 1,000 percent, meaning reduced wilderness can't support the numbers, forcing the animals in to more "civilized" areas. 

People who are argue that the bears should be "relocated" instead of killed don't understand the concept of  "carrying capacity," just as they don't understand much of anything about natural resources management.

FWC Director Nick Wiley justified the decision this way:

 “Although hunting has been demonstrated to be a valuable tool to control bear populations across the country, it is just one part of FWC’s comprehensive bear management program. I am proud of our staff who used the latest, cutting-edge, peer-reviewed science to develop a recommendation for our Commissioners to consider.

"Our agency will continue to work with Floridians, the scientific community and local governments as our focus remains balancing the needs of Florida’s growing bear population with what’s best for families in our state. I would like to thank all seven of our Commissioners for their leadership on this important issue.”

But in approving in the 2015 hunt, two commissioners said this:

"Of the 41 states that have black bears, 32 of them already allow hunting in some form or fashion,” said Commission Vice Chairman Brian Yablonski of Tallahassee.

“And all those states have managed to do it in a way that is sustainable and that works to preserve and keep a healthy, thriving bear population.”

“I’d rather see more bears in the environment and hunting than the amount of bears we’re euthanizing, because we’re bringing them into the neighborhoods,” added Commissioner Ron Bergeron of Fort Lauderdale.

“I don’t think any person should have the right to endanger their neighbor.”

So, as a few more bears won't be killed among an exploding population (304 in 2015), the odds increase for someone living in Florida to be fatally mauled by a bear.  Already, several have been attacked and severely injured, pets have been killed, and houses and property damaged by bears that have lost their natural fear of humans. In 2012 alone, a bear complaint hotline received 6,000 calls.