By: Julie Wraithmell, executive director, Audubon Florida
It’s hard to see dead fish littering Southwest Florida’s beaches as far as the eye can see. Even if you close your eyes, the smell won’t let you forget. Images of dying manatees and sea turtles and fuzzy black skimmer chicks starving on our beaches make even the most cheerful among us angry.
I’ve heard a lot of blame thrown around recently, especially faulting long-suffering Lake Okeechobee for Southwest Florida’s coastal woes. The lake does need real help. Its flow is constrained to the south, and the lake is overburdened by nutrients. The nutrients and blue-green algae coming down the Caloosahatchee River have terrible impacts on the areas where they meet the Gulf. But they aren’t fueling the red tide as far away as Naples and St. Petersburg.
The bad news is other nutrient sources are contributing to this broader red tide problem. The good news is there are many things we can do to address these problems and reduce the likelihood of this becoming a regular summer occurrence.