A Statement on Everglades Restoration- Please ACT NOW!

Florida’s Fisheries Need Our Help: Statement on Everglades Restoration- Please ACT NOW!

February 12, 2016

Polluted freshwater discharge flowing over a spillway on Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce, FL. Photo: Dr. Zack Jud - Florida Oceanographic Society

Polluted freshwater discharge flowing over a spillway on Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce, FL.
Photo: Dr. Zack Jud – Florida Oceanographic Society

Healthy recreational fisheries require healthy habitats. Healthy habitats require healthy, natural freshwater flows. It’s that simple.

Current water management practices in Florida are gravely threatening Florida’s recreational fisheries. At the center of this crisis are the Florida Everglades, where natural freshwater flows have been severely disrupted.

Research long ago established that changes to freshwater flows into estuaries causes significant negative impacts to the ecosystem. These changes can kill seagrasses, oysters, fishes, and other organisms that are important to the estuary ecosystem. From an angler’s perspective, these changes negatively impact gamefish – there are fewer prey items, less habitat, and the poor water quality can impact fish health. The way that water flows in the Florida Everglades are currently managed is causing damaging changes to freshwater flows into estuaries and wreaking havoc on the ecosystems.

At present, many billions of gallons of polluted freshwater are being discharged every day from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River and Estuary. These areas are unfishable. Algal blooms are widespread.

In contrast, so little freshwater is reaching Florida Bay that the waters of Florida Bay are hypersaline (too salty), which has resulted in a large-scale die-off of seagrass, an extensive algae bloom, and numerous fish kills.

The Indian River Lagoon, into which the St. Lucie River drains, is experiencing a massive brown tide. The St. Lucie Estuary recently posted health warnings to avoid contact with the water.

These recreational fisheries and habitats are in crisis.

The recreational fisheries of Florida are extremely economically important. Estimates of statewide economic impact of the fishery range from $5 billion to $8 billion annually. The flats fishery of the Florida Keys has an annual economic impact of $465 million. The annual economic impact of the recreational fishery of the Everglades region is nearly $1 billion. The economic impact of the tarpon fisheries of the Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor exceed $19 million and $110 million, respectively.

Mats of seagrass after a dieoff in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo: Dr. Aaron Adams

Mats of seagrass after a die-off in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo: Dr. Aaron Adams

Before the Everglades were modified, natural freshwater flows sent the right amount of freshwater to Florida Bay via sheet flow, and much less water to the east and west coasts, which supported healthy habitats and healthy fisheries. Now altered flows and water management send insufficient freshwater to Florida Bay and too much water is released to the northern estuaries. These changes in freshwater flow result in the algae blooms, seagrass die-offs, fish kills, and other environmental impacts that are currently ongoing.

The last time water alterations were this severe, in the early 1990s, Florida Bay suffered catastrophic algae blooms and seagrass die-off, which had severe negative impacts on the recreational fishery that are still felt today. Now, we fear a repeat of the catastrophe of the 1990s is under way. Florida Bay is the “Canary in the Coal Mine” for Florida’s recreational fisheries, and rings alarms bells for the entire region, from the Caloosahatchee River and Charlotte Harbor to the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

What needs to happen? Appropriate freshwater flows need to be restored!

  • The plans to make this happen are in place – known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project or CERP – they just haven’t been adequately funded or implemented as promised. This plan needs to be funded and implemented immediately. This will supply Florida Bay with sufficient freshwater and stop the drastic discharges of water into other areas.
  • The Central Everglades Planning Project needs to be fast-tracked.
  • The state needs to purchase the land already identified for creating reservoirs to store and help clean the freshwater.
  • The state needs to implement strategies to reduce the amount of nutrients in freshwater entering the estuaries.

It’s not going to be an easy or short-term effort, but if action isn’t taken now, the future of these habitats and fisheries is not bright.

We need you to ACT NOW, before it’s too late!

What You Can Do:

  • If you live in the Florida Keys, attend the March 23 Monroe County Commission Meeting, where this item will be a top focus.
  • If you don’t live in the Florida Keys, request that this issue is placed on the next Commission meeting agenda for your county and show up at the meeting in force
  • Demand that freshwater flows into Florida Bay are increased, especially during the dry season, and oppose any actions that would reduce this flow
  • Demand that freshwater flows into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River are greatly reduced
  • Demand that water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is created now, not delayed until 2022
  • Demand that the freshwater flows into Indian River Lagoon are returned to more natural patterns
  • Demand that the freshwater flowing into the estuaries is clean

Contact your local, state, and federal elected representatives and tell them to fast-track CERP, purchase the land to create reservoirs to store and clean freshwater, and implement strategies to reduce nutrients and contaminants in the freshwater entering the estuaries.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (FL)
https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/contact-bill

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (FL)
http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-rubio?p=Contact

Find and contact your U.S. House of Representatives
http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_fl

Find and contact your state Senators and Representatives:
https://www.flsenate.gov/senators/find
http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

South Florida Water Management, Governing Board
Daniel O’Keefe, Chair
(561) 682-6262
dokeefe@sfwmd.gov
Represents: Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties

Kevin Powers, Vice Chair
(561) 682-6262
kpowers@sfwmd.gov
Represents: St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties

Contact the Monroe County Board of Commissioners
county_commissioners@monroecounty-fl.gov

The Flats Fishery of Belize Needs Your Help!

BlackadorCayeDespite being part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, there is a real chance that a mangrove island called Blackadore Cay, near San Pedro, will be developed as an “eco-resort”. Not only will the development greatly damage the Cay, but also impact the surrounding flats – including creating a fishing exclusion zone. If this development is approved, it will negatively impact the local flats fishery and will set a dangerous precedent threatening flats habitats throughout the country. The local fishing guides and lodges are opposed to this proposed development and have asked for our help. Please read the talking points below and let your voice be heard by signing the petition that is linked at the bottom of this post.

  • The flats fishery of Belize has an annual economic impact exceeding $100 million Belize Dollars.
  • The flats fishery is entirely catch and release. In fact, due to the high economic impact of the fishery, the Belize legislature made bonefish, tarpon, and permit catch and release only.
  • Research has shown that the flats species have high survival rates after release, which means that the fishery is sustainable.
  • The flats fishery is also culturally important. For example, the job of flats fishing guide is frequently passed along through generations within a family. These multiple generations of fishing guides depend upon access to healthy habitats for their livelihoods.
  • The flats fishery is already under threat. At the November 2014 National Flats Fishing Summit, flats fishing guides identified the top threats to the fishery: lack of enforcement, loss of habitat, and illegal netting.

The proposed Blackadore Caye development poses a significant threat to the flats fishery of Belize for the following reasons:

  • CRW_3013The development will cause habitat degradation, which will negatively impact the fishery. In fact, with habitat loss and degradation already a top threat to the fishery, the proposed Blackadore development adds to an already worrisome situation.
  • Blackadore is within a protected zone as part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. To propose development of a marine protected zone is ludicrous. This not only has local implications, it has national implications. If the Blackadore development is approved, this sets a dangerous precedent that calls into question the safety of other protected areas, and thus the future of the flats fishery throughout Belize.
  • One of the important characteristics of the flats fishery is that flats guides are able to access all waters in pursuit of fish. This right is threatened by the proposed development, which aims to exclude Belizeans from the waters around the island. This leads not only to a loss of available habitats for fishing guides, but also negatively impacts the cultural heritage of the fishermen.
  • The proposed Blackadore development needs to be denied. It is an example of everything that threatens the future of the economically and culturally important and sustainable flats fishery

Sign the Petition: https://www.change.org/p/government-of-belize-leonardo-dicaprio-living-future-institute-department-of-environment-neac-blackadore-caye-stop-the-overwater-structures-protect-the-environment-public-access

BTT’s 2016 Artist of the Year, Kent Ullberg

UllbergSilverGhosts

Silver Ghosts signed “© Ullberg” on base stainless steel, 14 by 7 by 17 in. edition 10 of 50

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s 2016 Artist of the year is sculptor Kent Ullberg. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of Kent’s sculpture, “Silver Ghosts,” will go directly to BTT and an anonymous donor has agreed to make a $10,000 donation to BTT should the sculpture sell for $10,000 or more. The Copley Fine Art Auctions’ Winter Sale 2016 will take place February 12 in Charleston, SC. To bid on Kent Ullberg’s Silver Ghosts, come to the sale or contact Copley at 617.536.0030 or by email (info@copleyart.com) to register for an absentee or telephone bid. Internet bidding is also available through Bidsquare, and more information can be found at copleyart.com.

A native of Sweden, Kent Ullberg is recognized as one of the world’s foremost wildlife sculptors. He studied at the Swedish University College of Art in Stockholm and worked at museums in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Africa, and Denver, Colorado. After living in Botswana, Africa, for seven years, he has made his home permanently in the United States where he now lives on Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Texas. He also maintains a studio in Loveland, Colorado.

Ullberg is a member of numerous art organizations and has been honored with many prestigious awards. In 1990 his peers elected him a Full Academician. A selection of his memberships include the National Sculpture Society, the American Society of Marine Art, the Allied Artists of America, Nature in Art, Sandhurst, UK, and the National Academy of Western Art in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which awarded him the Prix de West, the foremost recognition in Western Art. In 2010 he received the Briscoe Legacy Award.

In October 2008, Kent Ullberg’s work Silver Ghosts was awarded the 2008 Environmental Wildlife Award at the 29th Annual Mystic International Marine Art Exhibit at the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. This award acknowledges the importance of preserving the fragile balance within the world’s ecosystem. Silver Ghosts was recognized as the work that best depicts marine wildlife in their native habitat.

Kent Ullberg has been a fisherman all his life. Over the years he has had the privilege of exploring the fishing and diving grounds of Cocos Island, Panama, and the Great Barrier Reef, amongst others, with his good friend Dr. Guy Harvey. Ullberg writes, “I will always be attracted to the sea, both as a fisherman and an artist; of all the works I have created at least half of them are marine related.”

Known for his monumental works executed for museums and municipalities across the globe, his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his Omaha, Nebraska, installations are the largest bronze wildlife compositions ever done, spanning several city blocks. Both earned him the coveted Henry Hering Medal Award from the National Sculpture Society, New York City. His most recent monumental installation is Snow-Mastodon, a life-size bronze Mastodon placed outside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science last September.

BTT Needs Your Help to Identify Juvenile Tarpon Habitats

BannerImageCalling All Juvenile Tarpon Anglers!

We need your help to identify juvenile tarpon habitats in your area.  BTT has begun mapping juvenile tarpon habitat to 1) determine the habitat characteristics that are best for juvenile tarpon and 2) protect healthy habitats and identify other areas for habitat restoration.  BTT has already been involved with three juvenile habitat restoration projects and we will use this data to expand the restoration and protection effort.

If you are aware of any locations that hold juvenile tarpon that are 12 inches long or less, please contact JoEllen Wilson at jwilson@bonefishtarpontrust.org.  You will be asked for an exact location to better assess the habitat characteristics for that spot.  Don’t worry, all information is strictly confidential and WILL NOT be disseminated to the public in any way.

Loss and degradation of juvenile habitat is the single biggest threat to tarpon populations worldwide, and they have been classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning there has been at least a 30 percent decrease in the population in the recent past.  Protecting and restoring critical juvenile habitat is the best way to preserve tarpon populations for the future.

We appreciate your assistance in protecting the future of the tarpon fishery.  If you would like to donate to this project or any other BTT project, please click here.

 

2015 Contest Winners and 2016 Trip of a Lifetime Announced!

Belieze River Lodge2015 Trip of a Lifetime Winner!
Congratulations to Brent Nash for being the winner of the 2015 BTT Trip of a Lifetime contest! Since Brent was a paying member of BTT in 2015, he has won an awesome trip for himself and another angler to fish out of Belize River Lodge with BTT’s Dr. Aaron Adams and Mick Kolassa.

 

PrintCosta Sunglasses Contest Winner
BTT is proud to announce Russell Novak as the winner of our 2015 Costa Sunglasses giveaway contest. Congrats Russell!

 

Palometa-Logogp2016 BTT Trip of a Lifetime
Join or renew your BTT membership in 2016 and you will be entered to win a trip for two anglers to fish out of The Palometa Club in Punta Allen, Mexico.

The 2016 Trip of a Lifetime membership raffle includes 4 nights / 3 days lodge fishing for two anglers. The trip must be taken during the 2017 calendar year, with mutually agreeable dates based upon availability when the club is open.

Palometa Club Fishing Package Includes: 4 Nights accommodations; 3 Full days of guided fishing; Ground transportation to lodge; Boat Beers and Happy hour beverages (Margaritas, Beer, Local Rum Drinks); Non-alcoholic beverages; Mexican VAT tax

Palometa Club Fishing Package Does Not Include: Commercial air to Cancun; Additional alcoholic beverages outside of Happy Hour (BYOB welcome); Guide and staff gratuities; Fishing Tackle & Flies; Organized eco-tours; Laundry Service; Telephone calls; Departure Taxes, Additional Nights/Days beyond the 4 night / 3 day package, Supplements for private rooms or boats/guides

For more info on The Palometa Club click here.

To join BTT, click here.

2016 BTT membership shirt features tarpon artwork by Derek DeYoung

2016 Bonefish and Tarpon Trust membership shirt

2016 BTT Membership Shirt – Art by Derek DeYoung

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust is proud to announce that our 2016 membership shirt will feature artwork by the iconic fish artist, Derek DeYoung.

“To be called upon to provide artwork for the 2016 BTT t-shirt is a sincere honor for me,” said DeYoung. “Watching a tarpon slowly track my fly and eventually attack it is a sight I hope generations to come will get to enjoy. The BTT is crucial to this happening. Thanks to all the folks at BTT for helping make positive changes for our tarpon, bonefish, and permit populations in a day that finds these fish so vulnerable.”

To get your 2016 BTT membership shirt, all you have to do is join or renew your membership to Bonefish and Tarpon Trust at the $100 Member level or higher.

Click here to join today or click here to renew your membership.

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Will Vallely

Captain Will VallelyThe Conservation Captain for January 2016 is Capt. Will Vallely out of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. Recently, Capt. Will has been very busy capturing bonefish fin clip samples from the waters of Turks and Caicos in support of BTT’s Bonefish Genetics Program.

 

Click here for more info on about Capt. Will Vallely.

Where do you guide and how long have you been guiding for? 

I guide in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I’ve been guiding full time for 7 years, though I spent summers guiding while still in school.

How did you become a fishing guide?

My old man wanted me to have a summer job when I turned 12. It was his idea to get me to start guiding. He figured, might as well, considering I would be on the water more then on land anyway.

How many days per year do you guide?

Around 260 days.

What species do most of your clients want to fish for. Why? 

Bonefish. Why go fishing when you can go hunting!

Tell us about how your fishery used to be, compared to today. (Numbers of fish caught, seen, number of anglers on the water, etc.)

There are various fluctuations in bonefish population over the years. Maybe the conditions for spawning aren’t just right one year as they are the next. Of course the weather plays a huge role. My guide partner Barr Gardiner and my Uncle “Bonefish Lam” showed me the ropes as a kid. They were the first two guides down here and have a completely old school approach. According to them the second tourism began to thrive, the netting of bonefish slowed down dramatically. The vast majority of our fishery was also put under protection in the early 90’s as national parks and reserves. The only other anglers on the water these days are us guides. Nobody is out recreationally fishing the bonefish areas. The tarpon fishery down here is interesting. Around March-October we get them in the 30-40 lb range and late summer/early fall the occasional 80 lb fish. The majority of these fish stay in deep cuts and I catch them on full sinking fly line. Why these 30 lb fish leave around November and show back up in mid march is beyond me. I always wondered where they go.

In your opinion, what is the most important conservation issue facing the flats fisheries right now and what can be done to help fix it?

Protecting and finding spawning sites. We still know so little about such a crucial element of the fish’s life cycle.

Despite some of the negative things happening to our fishery, why do you love it so much?

There is no plateau on the learning curve.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

BTT is science based, so no guess work and no politics. It’s all about collecting data, studying the data, and using it for the benefit of the species.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that BTT does and why?

That’s a tough one. I think outreach work BTT does to the public and creating an awareness of how sensitive and connected the environment is.

Why should a fisherman that doesn’t live in Florida or the Caribbean care about BTT?

The interest in BTT’s species is global. I fish clients from all over the world and they really care about fish conservation and getting a better understanding of species & environment.

You have the day off. What species are you going to fish for, where are you going to find them, and how are you going to catch them.

Probably wade fish on some flats that are either offshore or close to deep water. Always love hunting edges where you might not see a lot of fish but if you see them they are going to be big boys. I usually ignore those types of spots with clients. At least the ones that are looking for their first bone! I also love fishing in heavy wind/rain. I find that those are the times to catch the big bonefish in skinny water. Especially in winter when water is chilly.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

Hard to say. There are so many of course. Years back we hooked a double digit bonefish and held onto the fly line with too much resistance and the leader snapped immediately. We were so bummed because it was, in our opinion, pretty far over the 10 lb mark. Later that day we were fishing at least 2 miles from the spot and saw the same fish cruising the edge. Fish like that almost look like sharks. Anyways we hooked/boated the beast and got our fly back. Fish gotta eat!

Ft. Lauderdale / Pompano Beach Bonefish Samples Needed

IMG_4244We have been hearing reports of bonefish being caught near the Ft. Lauderdale / Pompano Beach, FL area. The genetics of these fish are very interesting to us and we need your help collecting samples. If you or anyone you know has been catching bonefish near there or anywhere along in Florida, please contact us for a genetics sampling kit. Email info@bonefistarpontrust.org

2016 FWC Snook Symposium

snook-symposium-flyerBonefish & Tarpon Trust will be a Gold Sponsor of the upcoming Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Snook Symposium, to be held in Orlando, FL on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. Why, you might ask, is BTT sponsoring the Snook Symposium? It’s simple – juvenile and sub-adult tarpon and snook use many of the same habitats, so what’s important to snook habitat management is important to tarpon habitat management. There will also be discussion about management goals for the future, which potentially influences all of the flats species. It is free to attend, but registration is limited.

Details:
When: January 13, 2016

Where: Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Dr., Orlando, FL

FWC will present information on the following topics:

– Snook stock assessment for Florida
– Snook habitat use, movements, and the effect of the cold kill
– History of snook management
– Future of snook management in Florida

To register to attend: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snook/symposium/

Learn more: 850-487-0554 or Marine@MyFWC.com