Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
These photographs of the Indian River Lagoon were taken on 11 October 2017, between the bridge at East Ocean Blvd, Stuart and north to Indian Riverside Park and Jensen Beach, Florida. The lagoon waters have been polluted for several days with run-off from Lake Okeechobee making the lagoon various shades of brown, orange, red and grey, with dirty scummy foam a feature at the shorelines and also as foamy windrows and wave crests in open water. The St Lucie River is in much the same state.
During this time the Army Corps of Engineers has been opening the locks at Port Mayaca to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee down the St Lucie Canal to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system. Rates vary from 4500 to 5500 cubic feet per second, equivalent to 2.9 to 3.5 billion gallons per day. It has been calculated that this amount of discharge would cover the Stuart peninsula north of Monterey Road with four feet or more of water in one day.
The Florida Oceanographic Society reports for 10 October 2017 that salinities in the Lagoon have been drastically reduced by this lake discharge to between 1 and 3 parts per thousand sufficient to kill many estuarine fish and other plants and animals (normally the salinity would be between about 20 and 25 parts per thousand in this section of the lagoon). The Society has graded the overall health of the Lagoon on either side of the East Ocean Bridge as “Poor to Destructive”. See this link:
The Army Corps of Engineers is aware that they are killing the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system by their actions, but consider it more important to lower the Lake Okeechobee level from the current level of 17.2 (feet above mean sea level) to a desired level of between 12 ft and 15 ft.
These are the facts. It is also a fact that politicians have not managed to stop this destruction.
Yesterday, I asked Ed to take me up in the plane, once again to document the discharges. In the wake of much rain and an active hurricane season, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon continues to sacrifice its economy, health, and ecosystem for the EAA and South Florida drainage. A standard operating procedure that is outdated and dangerous.
The discharges from Lake O. have been on and off since Hurricane Irma hit on September 20th. Presently they are “on,” and it shows. Right now our river and ocean shores near the inlet should be at available to boaters, fisher-people, and youth, in”full-turquoise-glory.” Instead, the estuary, beaches, and near offshore is a ghost-town along a chocolate ocean and a black river. The edge of the plume can hardly be distinguished as all is dark, sediment filled waters. A disgrace.
One thing’s for sure, if you don’t have small fish, you won’t have big fish. Being a little fish is actually the most important thing in world. A small fish is a “big fish” we could say, part of it anyway… As kids, we learn about the food chain and it makes perfect sense. All life is dependent upon another; everything is connected.
I have to say when Cameron Jaggerd contacted me, I had to look up “menhaden” in Wikipedia. I was not familiar with the name. When I saw this fish has many names such as shad, bunker, shiner, and pogy, I recognized it.
All those names, incredible! It is obviously an important fish to many regions, and to many people. In fact, I found an article in The American Naturalist entitled “A Study of the Popular Names of the Menhaden,” noting there are over 35 names!
Cameron invited me to attend today’s public hearing to support this important and underrated fish. I hope you can attend too. I myself have witnessed the beauty of terns catching the smallest of these fish, silver-sparkling, like metal against the sun. So beautiful! So important! An inspiration! We must protect these filter-feeding little-big guys, who clean our waters, and feed the world.
Below, Cameron gives great insight and teaches about the history and politics of tonight’s public hearing. His contact info is below.
My name is Cameron Jaggard and I work on public policy, specifically fisheries management, at The Pew Charitable Trusts. I am based in North Palm Beach and grew up on the southern stretch of the IRL. I am contacting you because there is an important public hearing scheduled for October 10 6pm at the Melbourne Beach Community Center that I thought you’d want to attend. This hearing, the only one in the South, will help decide the fate of “the most important fish in the sea,” also known as Atlantic menhaden or pogy.
With strong encouragement, the Commission could decide to leave hundreds of millions more menhaden in the ocean to grow abundance and provide for predators, such as tarpon, king mackerel, and osprey, or, without it, they could stick with the current single-species approach and likely take hundreds of millions more out of the ocean for fish meal, pet food, and other products. Issue 2.6 Reference Points – Option E of draft Amendment 3 is the option that gets us to this 21st century approach as soon as possible and as such, enjoys broad support from conservation groups (e.g. Audubon, Earthjustice, Wild Oceans, FWF), fishing organizations (e.g. IGFA, ASA, CCA, TRCP, Anglers for Conservation), and the best available science. As a matter of fact, Stony Brook is currently championing a PhD sign-on letter in support that currently has over 100 signers. This piece from Ed Killer last week gives a nice local take on what’s at stake http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/outdoors/fishing/2017/09/28/most-important-fish-sea-discussed-oct-10/711709001/
This hearing is a rare and important opportunity for you, your family, and friends to affect change that could have widespread, positive impacts for menhaden, their predators, and the people who depend on them. I heard the big commercial menhaden fishery had 150-200 folks turnout at hearings up north last week. This will be the only hearing in the South, vey important.
Also…I was trying to think of how you could best relate the story of menhaden to your readers. Some thought bubbles I came up with during this brainstorm are below. Seems there are some clear parallels between menhaden and the IRL. Specifically, that we want management of water and management of menhaden that benefits all, not just a select few businesses. Maybe these thoughts will provide some useful inspiration for your story or maybe not.
· Menhaden might not be well known outside of the fishing world, but their plight should be familiar to all those who have fought for the health of the Indian River Lagoon. Much as Florida’s water management has been shaped by Big Sugar, menhaden have been at the mercy of the commercial menhaden reduction fishery, which nets and vacuums menhaden out of the sea to be ground up and processed, like sugar cane, into ingredients for everything from cosmetics to pet food.
· This one-sided approach has produced very clear benefits for these special interests, while leaving everyone else who depends on healthy estuaries and plentiful menhaden in the lurch.
· Now, a proposed rulemaking, known as Amendment 3 to the…, could flip the tables and see to it that an important public trust resource is managed to the benefit of all.
o With your support, Amendment 3 could put much needed restraints on the commercial menhaden fishery to ensure we leave enough menhaden in the ocean to provide for the predators and people that depend on them from Florida to Maine.
· If you support this equitable approach to managing our precious natural resources, I encourage to attend the menhaden hearing today, October 10 6pm at the Town of Melbourne Beach Community Center and make sure to speak in favor of “Reference Points Option E.” Please also submit a written comment in support of “Reference Points Option E” to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Draft Amd. 3” by October 24, 2017. For more information on Amendment 3 please visit http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/compass-points/2017/08/31/fate-of-most-important-fish-in-the-sea-hangs-on-commission-decision
(1) What’s happening?
The state officials that set rules for menhaden commercial fishing along the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will decide at a November 13 meeting in Baltimore how to move forward a new management model for this important fish. While fisheries managers throughout the country are starting to set catch limits for forage fish like menhaden in a way that leaves enough in the ocean for predators to eat, it will make history if menhaden are managed this way. That’s because menhaden is the biggest fishery by volume on the East Coast, and third in the country, after Alaska pollock and Gulf menhaden.
(3) Why do people here care?
Menhaden (also called bunker and pogy) are prey for many species that people care about. Recreational fishermen want to see plentiful menhaden in the water for tarpon, king mackerel, billfish and more to eat; same goes for birders looking for eagles and ospreys and whale-watching tourists and residents looking for humpbacks close to shore.
(4) Who can I talk to?
I can arrange a time for you to speak with Pew’s Joseph Gordon, who leads the Mid-Atlantic ocean conservation team and can give you the national context for this issue; here’s his latest Pew blog on menhaden. A member of Joseph’s team will be at each hearing and can help you find people to talk to there, so let me know if you’d like to be in touch with him.
(5) Are there any visuals?
Great visuals are out there on menhaden and their predators. In the last few summers, videos showing these species feasting on menhaden (see this shark video and this humpback video as examples) are popular.
(6) What’s interesting about menhaden?
Many people may not have heard of menhaden, because they don’t end up as seafood in this country. Commercial fishing for menhaden is mostly a “reduction” fishery that grinds them into pet food, fertilizer and fish oil; about a quarter of menhaden caught end up as bait for other fishermen to use. Despite menhaden being one of the country’s biggest fishery by volume, there were no catch limits at all until 2013. While the menhaden population seems to be growing, it is still at near-historic lows. It was much larger in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, before hitting lows in the 1990s and 2000s.
Principal Associate, U.S. Oceans, Southeast |
The Pew Charitable Trusts | c: 202-590-8954 |
e: email@example.com | pewtrusts.org
Shad, bunker, shiner, pogey, and no telling how many other names, are all describing the menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). They grow to approximately one foot and are very similar in appearance to the freshwater shad, but are not the same fish. Menhaden are extremely oily, which is why they have been commercially netted for so many years for the oil and meal that can be produced from them. They are many people’s “secret” bait for almost all species, using them alive, dead, or cut. They should be hooked just like all the other baits that I have written about so far — For trolling, hook them through the nose; for bottom fishing, through the nose or over the anal fin; and as cut bait, they should be cut diagonally and hooked over the top of the cut surface.
Menhaden are plankton filter feeders and can only be caught with a cast net since they won’t bite a hook. Sometimes when you see bait “striking” or rolling on the surface, it is a school of menhaden making surface slurps of minute surface food items. We used to be able to spot menhaden inside Tampa Bay in the summer time by the oil slick that will form over a large school. They also have a very distinctive smell if you are downwind of them. They are a very fast moving fish, and usually by the time you see them on your fish finder, they have moved far enough away from the boat so that you cannot net them. We try blind throws of the cast net in the area where we can see them flipping on the surface; this usually will produce bait. Menhaden are also very intolerant of low dissolved oxygen and will die quickly in a poorly aerated live well. Still, they are five star on my list of baits.
Just as a note, if you have never seen live menhaden, many of them have a small critter that comes crawling out of their mouths when they die. This is quite a surprise the first time you see it. It appears to be some sort of shrimp or crab that looks like a mantis shrimp and must live inside the mouth or gill area without hurting the menhaden. I don’t remember seeing this written about in any of the fish books, but surely some biologist somewhere has seen this.
Todd: S-80 hit 6,727 cfs on 10/06/2004. The lake was at 17.86 and rising it peaked at 18.02 on 10/13/04.
Hurricane Jeanne had hit days earlier on Sept. 25
Jacqui: I remember that. Bad.
Todd: Also. The 4000+ right now is instantaneous. The stats you always see are a mean for the day. Right now that are piling between 1000cfs and the high 5000s. It looks like they did almost hit 6000 earlier today.
Pulsing not piling.
Jacqui: Awful. I think it stinks that unless you know how to access all the technology, you don’t know the river is getting slaughtered until the following days. A nightmare. Thanks Todd. Goodnight.
Today is October 7th, 2017 and I am sharing photos taken October 6th, 2017 in the area of the St Lucie Inlet displaying the recent discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. The plume was measured four miles out, this is very far, and can be seen both north and south of the inlet. The edges are churned up and blurred, and there are many layers fanning out.
I share to document. I share in hope of eventual change, and I share to inspire the so many people who are causing change, change, that one day we will see in a better water future.
Thank you to my husband Ed for piloting, and to passenger, and photographer, Matt Coppeletta.
All photos taken of the St Lucie Inlet area on 10-6-17 by Ed Lippisch and Matt Coppeletta. Discoloration of water is caused primarily by discharges from Lake Okeechobee but also from canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and area runoff.
The population increase of the Goliath Grouper is one of those rare “feel-good” conservation success stories. With the help of a 1990 law of protection, the species has come back from being historically over-hunted.
I was recently contacted by advocate goliath grouper protectionist, Ms. Katie Carlsson, who spurned my interest in the debate to “reopen hunting on the species.” I also knew I could share my mother’s plethora of historic St Lucie River “Jew Fish” photos labeled such during the non-politically correct era that was part of my childhood and before. In today’s blog post the original terminology is used in the photographs as documented.
Now for today’s “Goliath Grouper!”
I wanted to speak up for Katie’s cause, questioning the reopening of the hunt. She has forward much information on FWC meeting dates, etc. Thank you Katie.
Before presenting you with many links to explore and opinions to read, I will say, that according to the Snook Foundation, “vast technological improvements in spear guns and diving equipment in the 1960s and 1970s made no wreck, cave or hole safe for Goliath grouper to hide. They have few natural predators and little fear of divers.They are easy prey.”
Of course anglers have the right to argue that the grouper in some areas, like South Florida, have been perhaps “too successful” and believe hunting should be reopened.
My question is if the giant fish will basically look you in the eye and let you kill it, or if there is a question as to the efficacy of the conservation program, why do it? There are so many other fish in the sea.
These are the locations and dates for future hearings:
Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd.
Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive.
Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave.
Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road.
Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N.
Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St.
Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library – South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway
Oct. 25: Tallahassee, FWC Bryant Building, Room 272, 600 S. Meridian St. (6-9 p.m. ET)
In the earlier part of the last century, Atlantic goliath groupers were abundant from Florida to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. If you have been lucky enough to be in the water with these creatures, then you appreciate their unflappable personality and awe-inspiring size, which reaches up to 8 feet and 1,000 pounds. The goliath grouper has no natural predators besides large sharks and humans. We are writing with regards to the latter.
Goliath groupers reached commercial extinction in the late 1980s. For this reason, in 1990 a federal and state ban on killing them was implemented for U.S. federal waters and state waters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, followed by a 1993 ban in the U.S. Caribbean. Twenty-seven years of protection have led to a population increase, although not a recovery to pre-exploitation levels, in the state of Florida alone. Spawning aggregations are forming again off the east coast of Florida. It’s the only place in the world where goliath groupers are now reliably found in significant numbers, as juveniles in mangroves, and as adults in reefs, solitary or forming spawning aggregations. People come from all over the nation and the world to see the goliath grouper spawning aggregations in the late summer, bringing big dollars that boost local economies.
“Diving in the Palm Beaches back in the late 1980s, to see a goliath grouper was the holy grail. Many of us dove year after year, and saw perhaps one, maybe none,” said Deb Castellana of Mission Blue. “To witness the resurgence of the species since protections were enacted has been heartening, a real story of hope.”
Yet, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently considering allowing the limited take of goliath groupers in state waters. The proposal would allow the killing of 100 goliath groupers per year for 4 years, for a total of 400 goliath groupers. The sizes targeted are breeding individuals. If implemented, the kill will exterminate most of Florida’s breeding population of goliath groupers, destroying 27 years of conservation management effort. This “limited take” is not supported by scientific evidence. Critics of the goliath grouper say the species is overeating and responsible for declining fish and lobster stocks. Yet, actual scientific data from researchers like Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. show that overfishing, not the goliath groupers, is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks.
Some say that a “sustainable” take of goliath groupers is possible, but many scientists agree that the current population would not last more than one, or perhaps two years after opening the fishery. And groupers have no nutritional value for humans since they contain levels of mercury that are unsafe for human consumption according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health.
“I repeatedly asked what scientific evidence the FWC has to support killing the goliath groupers, because all scientific research published to date does not support a fishery for this species and shows the species is highly conservation dependent and highly vulnerable to overfishing,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “Many don’t realize that goliath groupers actually eat predators of juvenile lobsters, allowing more lobsters to grow to legal size and making more lobsters available to fishers.”
Don DeMaria, a local professional diver, adds, “the annual goliath grouper spawning aggregations that occur off the coast of South Florida are spectacular natural events on a world scale. Efforts by the FWC, and others, to reopen a take of this fish are sure to disrupt, and eventually eliminate this natural wonder.”
If a hunting season is opened on the goliath grouper, the FWC has floated the idea of charging $300 per fish killed. Yet, recreational divers pay around $100 for one goliath grouper sighting. Think of that: a single goliath grouper in the water is supporting local business to the tune of $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime. But one spawning aggregation alone, made by several goliath groupers, generates about half a million dollars a year for one dive business. Financially speaking, that’s a much better investment than collecting a one-time payment of $300 per dead fish.
“Killing goliath groupers will also kill growing economic benefits derived from divers who revel in the opportunity to be in the presence of these iconic animals who are often as curious about us.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle
A Final Message from Katie:
We are aware that the FWC is gathering public input on the possibility of a goliath grouper killing season in Florida. As such, we have called for our supporters to attend one of the many workshops held in the state in August and October, as well as to submit a public comment on FWC’s website. We will also gathering signatures to a petition, which will be delivered to the FWC in anticipation of the goliath grouper decision coming down later this year.
“Although the species has not recovered to pre-exploitation levels, enough goliath groupers are showing up at a few spawning aggregation sites that their presence, and the SCUBA divers that come to visit them, bring a much-needed lifesaver to small businesses in Florida, between late August and early October, just when transition between the summer and winter seasons will leave these businesses in the doldrums,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “A live goliath grouper is more valuable than a dead one. And living goliaths will keep forming spawning aggregations and contributing to the Florida economy for as long as they live.”
We strongly urge the Commissioners of FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.
HELP US: Ask the FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers!
You don’t have to live in Florida to help. Please take a moment to tell the FWC to continue protections for the goliaths at this link. Feel free to use the language below as your comment.
“I am disappointed to learn the FWC is considering allowing the taking of goliath groupers. Many countries look up to the United States as a leader in so many fields, including conservation, and here we are about to permit fishermen to take goliaths—a species depleted throughout its range, except Florida—and nursed back to healthy numbers over the course of 27 years of Federal and state protection. We strongly urge you to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.”
I know this is a lot. This is a pretty interesting problem from science, conservation, and politics. The voting in the hearings is by clicker and is shown on the screen so have everyone who goes take a picture and post it. People that are under eighteen can attend and vote. They can also comment online at the FFW link.
“Right now billions of gallons of fertilizer, sewage, and legacy pollution from Lake Okeechobee are spewing into the St. Lucie River, carrying a new threat of toxic algae. Water managers may say Irma left them no choice, but of course that’s a half-truth…”
Documentation of primary and secondary plumes at St Lucie Inlet caused predominantly from human directed ACOE/SFWMD discharges post Irma and other from Lake Okeechobee & canals C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25. 10am, September 30, 2017. Primary plume out 3 miles; secondary 3 1/2 and not quite south to Peck’s Lake. We must continue to #ReplumbFlorida #forthefuture #forthewildlife #forthekidz #fortheeconomy for our #indianriverlagoon JTL/EL