CCA Florida

CCA Florida has come a long way, but is not quite there yet.  We’re so happy to see that CCA Florida finally joined the fray on the crisis of water mismanagement in Florida. They took a convoluted route to get to this point, but that seems to be a reflection of their internal operating procedures. In any case, their latest statement has come a long way. It’s great to see that they recognize the main problems, and are joining those that have been pushing to fix these problems.

Specifically, CCAFL recognizes that changes to freshwater flows kill estuaries. They also recognize that water quality is a huge issue. And they recognize that septic tanks have to be addressed. Many of their proposals for fixing things are on target too. FANTASTIC! We are hopeful that CCAFL can now put their full weight into this battle. After all, this is a bigger threat to the future of Florida’s fisheries than gillnets ever were. You can see their most recent statement here: (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10154204811255513&id=329170740512)

Overall, this is a good statement by CCAFL. However, we’d like to see a few more changes.
1) This is a good statement on the situation in the Everglades that is impacting Florida Bay, Southwest Florida, Southeast Florida, and the Florida Keys. But since the same water mismanagement issues that are causing all the problems in South Florida are destroying the coastal habitats and fisheries throughout Florida, why not address them all? Better yet, why not come out with a more general statement about the overall problems throughout the state, and then draft specific statements for each region? After all, they are just different watersheds that are suffering from the same pattern of mismanagement. Below is our list of top problems (which CCAFL also listed within their document):

– changes in freshwater flows are killing the estuaries and the organisms that live in them;

– the nutrients in these freshwater flows are causing plankton (algae) blooms that are killing seagrasses, oysters, and other organisms. When the algae (plankton) dies, the decomposition sucks up all of the oxygen, which causes fish kills.

– The freshwater also contains a lot of herbicides and pesticides that cause a lot of ecological damage. (Read Take Back Our Water’s statement on the Problems here http://takebackourwater.org/index.php/2016/03/27/100/ .)

And take a look at the statement by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. It does a good job showing the big picture. (http://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/general/take-action.html?vvsrc=%2fcampaigns%2f45345%2frespond)

Why do we think this is an important point to make? Because the problem is statewide. It’s all based on bad policy, policy that is from the 1950s when people could claim they didn’t know any better. It’s simple – fix the water and you’ll fix the fisheries, no matter where they occur.

2) It bothers us that CCA Florida takes a swipe at ‘nature’ by alternately blaming drought (for Florida Bay) and El Nino (for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers). But here’s the thing – Florida and all of its habitats and fisheries have been through countless droughts, floods, El Ninos, hurricanes, freezes, and many combinations of these events. But until the waters were screwed up by mismanagement, there weren’t these problems. There weren’t fish kills or seagrass dieoffs, or massive dolphin deaths.

Here’s another way to look at it – healthy ecosystems are resilient. They are able to handle things like droughts and El Ninos. Even if they are impacted they can rebound quickly. But sick ecosystems are in no condition to respond to natural events – which is where we are now.

3) CCA Florida is into restoration. Unfortunately, this will mean they are going to pour money down a hole, to send good money after bad. Have they done the research that would tell them that habitat restoration in an ecosystem that is still broken is a waste of time and money? Restoring oysters is pointless unless and until the causes of the oyster declines has been fixed. CCA Florida said they are “currently planning habitat restoration activities in the affected estuaries and will begin as soon as conditions improve.” Not long ago, oyster reefs were restored in the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie estuary. Things were going great, especially in the mid-2000s when freshwater flows were low. But then rains increased, Lake Okeechobee filled, and the freshwater deluges came down the rivers. Guess what happened to the oysters? You guessed it, they all died. And so did the community of organisms that lived on the oyster reefs. Is it really worth spending more time and money on this in a system that is still broken? Spend the money, time, and political capital to fix the water flows, then restore the habitats. We’re all for habitat restoration, but let’s fix the problems first, then restore. It’s going to take a while to restore the water, so we suggest that the oyster restoration is put on hold, and the funds and effort is focused on water restoration. If CCAFL is intent on habitat restoration, they would do a ton of good if they focused on constructing filter marshes that will help to clean the freshwater before it enters the estuaries.

We’re not trying to be too harsh on CCAFL. It’s great that they’ve come so far. But being close to the finish line doesn’t count. There are no ‘participation trophies’ here. It’s either fix the water and habitats or kiss the fisheries goodbye.

CCAFL – we’re glad you’re on board. We hope you reach out to the many groups that are working toward the same goal of restoring Florida’s waters. It’s time to push aside any past disagreements with some of the groups and join forces on this single, important issue.

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