Tag Archives: super bloom

Why A 4-Year-Old Can Tell You That Our Fertilizer Ordinances are Working, SLR/IRL

"Be Floridian. Don't Fertilize." Photo adapted from Beauty of Nature photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015. (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)
“Be Floridian. Don’t Fertilize.” Photo adapted from “Beauty of Nature” photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015.*

The “Be Floridian” program was born over a decade ago of the Tampa Bay area. This program has many elements, but most noteworthy is that “strict” fertilizer ordinances evolved collaboratively along the counties and cities of Florida’s “southerly” east coast.

Today, Tampa Bay has more seagrass than it did in the 1940s. This is in spite of the area’s high population. Certainly, they have different issues than we, and “no Lake O,” but the goal is clear: “if they did it there; we can do it here…improve our waters.”

On Florida’s east coast, in 2010,  the peninsular Town of Sewall’s Point, my community,  was the first to implement in a strong fertilizer ordnance. With the 2011-2013 melt down of the Indian River Lagoon due to super-algae blooms killing approximately 60% of the northern/central lagoon’s seagrasses, and the toxic “Lost Summer” of excessive dumping from Lake Okeechobee and area canals along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, communities all along the Indian River pushed their governments to implement strong fertilizer ordinances. —Making a statement that they were “fed-up” with dead waters, and were willing themselves to put “skin in the game.”

In case you don’t know, there are variations, but basically a “strong fertilizer ordinance” is one that does not allow fertilization with phosphorus and nitrogen during the summer rainy/hurricane season.

Recently there was an article in the “Stuart News” asking the question of whether or not these strong fertilizer ordinances are “working” along the IRL. The expert on hand replied it is “too soon to tell…”

I beg to differ, and here is why.

Of course they are working.

A four-year old can tell you they are  working.

Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.
Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.

I use this analogy a lot when discussing Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area’s 700,000 acres south of the lake blocking the natural flow of water from the northern estuaries to the Everglades.

In spite of the sugar and vegetable empires south of the lake trying to convince us that it is water from Orland and the Kissimmee River killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, any four-year old studying the River Kidz program will point to the area directly south of the lake as biggest problem forcing the water up and out the estuaries rather than allowing it to flow south as nature intended…We need a third outlet south of the lake. There is too much water to hold it all north. End of story. I don’t need a study to tell me this. I know it. A four-year old knows it. You know it.

Back to fertilizer….last night it rained hard here in Sewall’s Point. My rain gauge says two inches. Seemed like more than that. If my yard had been fertilized of course that fertilizer would have gone into the gutter and down the drain and into the Indian River Lagoon. You can go out and watch this from my driveway.

It must be noted that until the ACOE and SFWMD (collaborating at the direction of our government) stop dumping from the lake and out over expanded canals, we will never know our “area’s” levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.

For example, the ACOE began releasing into our SLR/IRL this January and just stopped a few weeks ago, so if a scientist had done her or her study recently, they would be measuring nutrients that came into our river from “other places” too.

But we, here, are doing our part and can feel good about this…keeping our house in order will help push order in the houses of the state and federal governments that are presently quite un-orderly.

Enforcement? Let’s focus on education. As we can see. It’s working! Five years ago people weren’t even aware that fertilizer was an “issue.”

As a sidebar before I close, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr Woody Woodraska who headed the SFWMD in the 1980s before it was  under the anvil of the governor and the state legislature. The topic of visiting Cuba arose. My husband Ed and I will be visiting Cuba this fall with our church, St Mary’s.

Mr Woodraska said: “Oh, you are going to love it..”

In the course of telling his story visiting as a competitor in the Ernest Hemingway competition, he alluded to Cuba’s long repressed economy and how this kept fertilizers, via the agriculture industry, from ruining  Cuba’s waters, fish and wildlife. Thus overall, Cuba’s waters are healthy and beautiful today.

We here in Florida, on the other hand, have developed every piece of land right up to edge of every river, some with septic tanks, and torn out the native plants and replaced with plants that we must fertilize; agriculture is a corporate producer going through literately tons of fertilizer every day; canals not only to drain our land, but  we build houses along them; a turf grass industry flourishes in South Florida that sells 25% of all turf-grass in the WORLD; wonderful universities, like my alma mater and family connected University of Florida, do research and watch the industry’s back to “keeping our economy rolling!”

Yeah…rolling right over our fish, and our wildlife, and over ourselves as we see our own economy suffering from dirty waters.

Whew. I need a cup of coffee.

Sorry to be so opinionated, but I just can’t stand it. Fertilizer that is. In fact I have a file on my computer called DEATH BY FERTILIZER. Here are some pictures; thanks for reading my rant, have a good day, and I will not say “happy fertilizing!”   🙂

Grass going right over edge of canal....photo DEP.
Grass going right over edge of canal….photo DEP.
Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff from fields into canals DEP photo.
An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)
An ad from the west coast of Florida, 2014.
When it rains hard all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses and animal life. (JTL)
When it rains a lot all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses by supporting algae blooms Animal and fish suffer. (JTL)
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
River Kidz protest Florida legislature's trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)
River Kidz protest Florida legislature’s trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)

 

RK artwork  2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin or for the fish they eat.
RK artwork 2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin, or seagrasses needed by the fish they eat.

BE FLORIDIAN: (http://befloridian.org)

MARTIN COUNTY’S FERTILIZER ORD. (http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=73,4448073&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL)

The National Research Council’s book “Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution,” National Academy’s Press, 2000, is the best book I have read on this subject. It can be ordered on line.

*Photo of Flamingo, source: (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)

What Exactly is Bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon? Is it a Good or Bad Sign?

bioluminescence
“The dinoflagellate, (marine plankton), Pyodinium bahamense is what “produces the light show in the IRL.” Photo credit: https://getupandgokayaking.com

About a week and a half ago, my mother sent me an email with photos of my father and her on a kayak trip at night in the Indian River Lagoon. She had seen an article in the Stuart News about a company called Motorized Kayaks of the Treasure Coast and their trip into the light show of bioluminescence that has been occurring off our shores.

First, I thought about how cool my parents are to be going on kayak trips in their mid- seventies, and second, I thought, “aren’t these little plankton creatures a kind of algae bloom, and aren’t algae blooms bad for the lagoon in spite of bioluminescence’s beauty?”

Algae blooms have been linked to recent 60% plus seagrass die-offs, poor water quality, as well as  IRL pelican, dolphin and manatee deaths.  Super blooms, brown tides, “regular” and “toxic” algae blooms are “fed” by fertilizer, septic effluent, canal and Lake Okeechobee discharges, especially in the southern lagoon.

[caption id="attachment_2989" align="alignnone" width="300"]My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August, 2014) My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August 19, 2014)

Well anyway, I decided to contact Dr. Edie Widder of ORCA, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, in Ft. Pierce, (http://www.teamorca.org/cfiles/home.cfm) and ask.

Dr Widder  is a world-renowned bioluminescence expert; she has even worked with the US Navy in the “design” of ships that would not cause bioluminescent disruption in the oceans, and thus give away their location to enemy ships.

This was my question to Dr Widder:

Dear Edie,
My parents rented kayaks to go see the bioluminescence in the IRL. It got me
thinking. Is the light caused by the same creatures that cause toxic algae
blooms in the lagoon?
Is the bioluminescence a bad sign for the health of the lagoon? Thank you.
Hope all is well.

Her response:

Hi Jacqui – It’s kind of a good news bad news story. The dinoflagellate
producing the light show, Pyrodinium bahamense, happens to be one that
produces saxitoxin. Interestingly it’s the same dino that’s responsible for
the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico and in those bays it doesn’t produce
the saxitoxin. Here it does. It’s not known why although I have a theory
and it has nothing to do with pollution. (It’s a long story having to do
with how their bioluminescence functions to protect them from predators
under different concentrations.)

Dino blooms are usually preceded by rain events that flush nutrients into
the water and then a series of calm sunny days that promote photosynthesis.
Blooms like the one we’re seeing now used to be routine according to some of
the older fishermen I’ve talked to. They called it fire in the water. The
fact is the water can’t be too polluted or the dinoflagellates won’t grow.
I’ll send you an article with some pictures I took.

Cheers,

Edie

Here is a photo Dr Widder took of bioluminescence in the lagoon I copied and a link to a remarkable video.

Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.
Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.

Incredible pictures of barnacles feeding on bioluminescent dinoflagellates: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1jG8qFZyYY)

Thank you for sharing, Dr Widder!

In conclusion, I looked up saxitoxin and learned it is a “paralytic shellfish toxin” that is found is some shellfish and especially puffer fish. It has been found in few other places in the US as well as in  the Indian River Lagoon. I guess the little dinoflagellates, the same ones that make the pretty bioluminescence light,  not always, but sometimes, will produce this toxin which gets spread to some shellfish and some fish. If such a shellfish or fish is ingested,  it will make a human very sick.  Around 2002, 28 people got so sick here, in the Merritt Island area, and in a few other areas of the county, that now there is a permanent government ban on harvesting/eating IRL puffer fish in the entire IRL.

Since I am nowhere close to a scientist, I will just share some links below and refrain from speculating what is “good or bad. ” Nonetheless, I think I can safely say that sometimes beauty and danger walk hand in hand in this magical world of our Indian River Lagoon.

_______________________________________________________

Abstract, Saxitoxin in the IRL, US Food and Drug Administration: (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/250019725_Concentrations_of_Saxitoxin_and_Tetrodotoxin_in_Three_Species_of_Puffers_from_the_Indian_River_Lagoon_Florida_the_Location_for_Multiple_Cases_of_Saxitoxin_Puffer_Poisoning_from_2002_to_2004Sincerely)

Monitoring Toxic Algae and Shellfish in the IRL, FWC, (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/monitoring/current/indian-river/)

Florida Today: Is the IRL OK for Play? http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2014/06/14/indian-river-lagoon-ok-play/10527607/)

Dinoflagellate: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinoflagellate)

Tumored Redfin Needlefish, Clues of Sickness in the Indian River Lagoon

Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state studied by the Florida Wildlife Commission. Why?
Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state. Why? (Photograph, public study, 1999-2009, by the Florida Wildlife Commission.)

I have decided to do a series of writings on the sick animals of the Indian River Lagoon because a “picture speaks a thousand words.” I am not trying to “focus on the negative,” or be a “hysterical woman.” I am trying to effect change.

I have heard about the sick animals, fish and bi-valves in the Indian River Lagoon “up close” at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s, “IRL Symposium” of  which I have attended the past three years, since it has been resurrected. At these symposiums, students, state agencies and others share information. In fact, all of these individual agencies and scientists share information on their websites, but for some reason, it never really goes “public.”

So I will post this on Facebook and see if these sad stories that should be a call to our state federal,and local governments, get a bit more coverage. As we know, it seems the people have to scream before the elected officials and agencies pay much attention to the fact that the beautiful Indian River Lagoon world  we are living in is contaminated and crumbling before our very eyes.

So, to get back to the study,  the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) did comprehensive  research between 1999 and 2009. Ironically, 2009 is also the year the seagrass started to dip, foreshadowing  the massive die off of seagrasses and marine mammals in  the northern lagoon. The FWC study focused on the “Distribution of Lymphosarcoma in Redfin Needlefish, in the Indian River Lagoon.”

Redfin needlefish are approximately 380 millimeters, to me they look like miniature barracuda with smaller teeth and  are pretty cool, shiny, little fish. They live about three years, commercially serve as bait fish for marlin fishing, and are an important shallow water predators, eating lots of little bottom living  critters, lower on the food chain.

Generally, tumors are caused by chemical carcinogens, radiation, and viruses and can be benign (OK) or malignant (bad). The study included Tampa Bay; Charlotte Harbor; Apalachicola; Cedar Key; the St Johns River, and the Indian River Lagoon. Tumors were found on jaws, flanks, the trunk dorsal fin, the pectoral fin area and the head. The prevalence of these usually malignant tumors, in over 20,000 needlefish studied, specifically and especially  in the Indian River Lagoon was astounding.

chart needlefish

The highest area of tumors was the Banana River. The Banana River is part of the IRL system and is located mostly south of NASA in Brevard County.  As mentioned, it is also where the highest seagrass loss was during the super-bloom of 2011. This super-bloom was followed by a secondary bloom and Brown Tide that spread south, just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, also killing seagrasses and wildlife.

map

I am no scientist, but it seems like the Banana River has some serious issues. Of course we would not want to jump to any conclusions….We wouldn’t want to frighten the public…..We wouldn’t want to hurt tourism, especially now.” Shhhhh!”

Tumored needlefish were also found in the southern lagoon, but not the majority. I feel better already. NOT. The lagoon is a system, the animals and fish know no county lines nor do the tides, wind or water. Even if water does not move much, sickness can spread or point to latent problems of our own.  We must think as “one-system,” and help each other as one entity, if we are going to save this lagoon.

The study of which is included in this post below, has a bullet point that says “no tumors were found after 2009.”  Noting that there is no clue when the study ended, this seems odd.

Hmm….. I wonder if that’s because there was no money put forth by the state for more comprehensive studies after the financial crisis of 2008? I wonder if its because the wonderful hard working people at the state agencies were afraid if they were too brazen the state would fire them? Believe me this happens.

Personally, I think the State of Florida, local governments, and the Department of Environmental Protection have some information to share, and some more research to do, for the little fish, and for us.

___________________________________________________________________________

FWC’s Study Tumored Needlefish IRL, 1999-2009: (http://www.ircgov.com/Lagoon/Symposium/Presentations/Part3/3.pdf)

Seagrass loss and the Indian River Lagoon

Seagrasses' poor quality is apparent at shoreline near Jensen Beach.
Seagrasses’ poor quality is apparent at shoreline near Jensen Beach. (Photo JTL)

Seagrass is really the lifeblood of the Indian River Lagoon. For the most part it no longer exist in the St Lucie River. Seagrass is the where fish are born, hide and eat before they get big enough to move into the oceans or open waters of the lagoon.

Holistically the lagoon is in big trouble. In 2010 and 2011 a super bloom of algae never seen in the lagoon before started in the northern area in Volusia County and Brevard counties. By the time it ran its course 87% of the sea grasses in the Banana River had disappeared.

In 2012 further south into Indian River County and parts of northern St Lucie, a secondary bloom, a brown tide, had moved south killing approximately 44% of the sea grasses in these areas.

St John’s Water Management District: (http://www.sjrwmd.com/itsyourlagoon/)

Closer to home, the sea grasses in the southern lagoon have been repeatedly ruined by the fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee and C-23 and C-24 during high rains.

Ft Pierce remains the healthiest area, however;  the recent marina improvements and consistent talk of a port threaten that area.

Hundreds of manatees, dolphins and pelicans have died recently from what the agencies call a “mystery.” There is no mystery, we are killing the lifeblood of our fisheries and corresponding food chain.

It’s up to us to reverse this trend, and we finally seem to getting it. Fertilizer, septic tanks, agricultural and residential runoff must be improved and shoreline destruction corrected.

There is a better future if we make it happen.

__________________________________________

To learn more about seagrasses, Harbor Branch’s symposiums have documented IRL Seagrass loss for the past three  years. See topics here. (www.indianriverlagoon.org))