Save The Indian River Lagoon

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"What has been known as the Seatrout and Redfish Capital of the world is now the dead fish Capital of the world."

Journalist Ted Lund spoke these words after a “brown tide” hit the Indian River Lagoon along central Florida’s Atlantic coast last month. This massive brown algae bloom, which depletes the oxygen in the water and suffocates fish, has turned these once idyllic beaches, waterways and estuaries into a mass grave, with hundreds of thousands of dead, rotting fish, crabs and rays floating belly-up as far as the eye can see.

This fish kill is the worst in Indian River Lagoon’s history, and it is threatening about 30 species, from small feeder fish to prized sport fish. Some 60 percent of the lagoon's seagrass, the barometer of the estuary's ecological health, has been killed. Hundreds of manatees, dolphins and pelicans have also died. It is wreaking havoc for local fishermen, and is also causing a stench and an eyesore that is threatening the local tourism industry.

This happened because decades of pollution from septic tanks, fertilizers, stormwater runoff and other sources met with unseasonably warm waters from El Niño, causing perfect conditions for overgrowth of this lethal brown algae.

I am petitioning our state representative Bill Posey to help come up with an immediate plan of action to save Indian River Lagoon. Time is of the essence, and this massively biodiverse habitat cannot be forsaken.

The local county already banned the use of fertilizers during the rainy season, precisely because of the damage caused by their runoff. But January isn’t normally the rainy season -- El Niño caused three times the normal amount of rainfall this January -- and the fertilizer ban is poorly enforced. Destructive high-nitrogen fertilizers are still readily available in local box stores across the county.

Lip service is being paid to this ecological disaster, but no real action has been taken. In fact, in his new annual state budget, Governor Rick Scott vetoed $700,000 for a project aimed at restoring natural filtration systems in the Indian River Lagoon, which would have helped the brown tide problem. We must demand action. We must insist on a unified plan and budget to restore the lagoon; one that makes it clear to all agencies involved what their role is, so the public can evaluate the clean-up’s progress and hold officials accountable.

Please join me in calling on Representative Bill Posey to spearhead research and planning to bring Indian River Lagoon back from the brink. Our fishing and tourism industries depend on it.



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