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Challenges with local water quality continuing

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Jan 26, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Beach closures, health advisories, more red tides, hundreds and hundreds of leaking boats still needing to be recovered, dare I even say flesh eating bacteria and lots of who knows what else still floating or submerged, moving around with the tides — to say there are continuing challenges ahead for the local water lovers, anglers, pleasure boaters, visitors and environmentalists is an obvious understatement.

The good and bad news. Good news first — no, the fish are not all gone. Are the inshore fish safe to eat? Probably as safe as those two double cheeseburgers, large fries and large, completely artificial chocolate chemical shake you just inhaled. Personally I’m waiting on inshore fish dinners, choosing to enjoy other offshore bounty but even some of them now carry health warnings (Check MyFWC for advisories)

Only time, the tides and hard work will help us recover from Ian’s wrath as the boats and their pollution is salvaged, helping to improve water quality. Large debris, possibly even cars, will become new inshore hot spots or, expensive prop and lower unit nightmares. I can hear it now: “Caught lots of trout today off Toyota reef” “Ya know, just north of the refrigerator…” “Wish I had more “good news.” Of course, taking a slow water tour of your favorite routes and hot spot destinations on a low water, negative tide day during bright skies could reveal potential dangers and or future hot spots.

While catastrophic hurricane recovery will be an ongoing process, the cleanup will at some point be over, although the emotional scars, personal tragedies and economic hardship many had and still do face, those memories while last a lifetime

Now, for the not so good side — state and local water quality issues that are destroying the freshwater and marine environment. No secret that for decades Florida’s waters have been manipulated for development and agriculture uses to the detriment of the environment and the health and safety of citizens. A national treasure, the Everglades, slowly withers away as it’s starved of water, instead the water is agriculture run-off poisoned while housed in Lake Okeechobee then sent mostly to the west coast to ruin our river and coastal zones as it enters the Gulf.

Once pristine Florida Bay, an incredible fishery, is now in decline due to the lack of clean Everglades freshwater entering that system which in the end upsets the ecology of The Keys.

To the north, world famous fishing and nature viewing spot, the Indian River Lagoon, is but a shadow of its former self due to water quality issues similar to ours.

The ongoing underwater destruction of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound is freighting. Many don’t like to hear things like that but we all need to face the reality of the situation and work hard to make drastic changes and tough choices. After all, weather and clean water are why most of us are here.

Unfortunately change takes time, which we are using up quite quickly further hampered by the evil curse of politics ,especially huge money, behind the scenes lobbying. I do applaud the efforts of Gov. DeSantis and recent legislation, but we still lack much more public involvement. Politicians love an apathetic public.

The one common thread statewide continues to be bad water chemistry killing the very nursery of the sea, our seagrasses. It’s very basic — no grass no fish. Be it septic systems leaking into the ground table, agriculture and livestock toxic run-off, phosphate mining, untold thousands of older boats statewide docked or sitting in marinas slowly dripping oil month after month, even natural disasters have all together created a chemical stew that has stimulated the growth of undesirable algae forms that are choking out our desirable and vital seagrasses that are the very cradle of marine life as well as contaminating the fish we consume.

This year, vow to make your voice heard.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You an contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.