Photo taken outside of Ocean’s Reach on Weds, Aug 16, 2018 at 3:00 p.m.
We’ve received numerous phone calls and emails inquiring about the red tide bloom that reached Sanibel Island near the end of July. This photo was taken mid-afternoon yesterday, showing “Day-10-and-Counting” of a clean beach outside of Ocean’s Reach. The red tide air irritants have dissipated, and there’s just a hint of fish odor, not much more than our typical beach ecology emits.
In other words, after a rough couple of weeks, we’re getting back to normal. Experts are saying that, unless conditions change significantly, guests to our area will now see a return of Sanibel’s beaches to their natural state.
We invite you to read on if you’re interested in a detailed account of what’s transpired on Sanibel Island over the past month. We also invite you to join us in asking elected officials to act quickly to implement long-overdue water quality programs designed to protect the precious marine habitats of Southwest Florida; easy-to-use links are featured at the end of this post.
Dear Ocean’s Reach Friends:
We’ve been touched by the outpouring of support we’ve received from so many of you as we begin to recover from the effects of the worst red tide bloom our region has seen in more than a decade.
We’re not scientists, so we can’t speak authoritatively on the subject. We are ocean advocates, however, and care deeply about our marine environment. With that in mind, we wanted to route on an update in the hope that it will help you better understand the water quality challenges we are currently facing on Sanibel Island and throughout Southwest Florida.
To quote our city officials: “Water is the lifeblood of Sanibel Island. It regulates the types of plants that grow on our island, it supports the diverse populations of wildlife that make Sanibel their home, it provides recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike, and it is the basis for our local economy.”
Over the past month, an outbreak of red tide has had devastating impacts throughout coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico.
By way of a layman’s tutorial (in other words, to the best that I understand it), “Red Tide” has been around for hundreds of years, and has been documented since the days of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. It has become a common term used to describe a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which results when colonies of microscopic algae, known as “dinoflagellates,” grow out of control. While Karenia brevis algae are always present in the Gulf waters of Florida, a perfect storm of warm water, sunlight, atmospheric carbon dioxide and excessive nutrients from watershed runoff can cause their population to explode, as it has this summer.
Karenia brevis algae release “brevetoxins” into the water that at high concentrations can become deadly for our marine ecosystem. These toxins can also become aerosolized and cause potential breathing difficulties for people with respiratory issues. While brevetoxins are benign at low concentrations, the higher the concentration, the greater the likelihood of toxic effects.
The current red tide bloom, which started in October 2017 along the Gulf Coast of Florida roughly 70-100 miles north of Sanibel Island, began impacting our shores in late July. Up until that point, red tide had not been found to be present on any Sanibel beach through weekly samples collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
It made itself known with a vengeance, however, and in the last week of July, there was an unprecedented wash up of dead marine life throughout Southwest Florida. From a 26-foot whale shark here on Sanibel, to numerous sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and millions of fish, the death toll has been so tragic that it has repeatedly made national and international news, along with the blue-green algae crisis (the green “goo” you’ve seen on TV) which is a different type of environmental disaster but has been nonetheless devastating for SW FL freshwater neighborhoods.
To combat the red tide, the City of Sanibel immediately started collecting dead sea life on July 28th,, and their daily morning clean-up efforts were followed by Ocean’s Reach staff also removing dead fish throughout the day. By August 6th, the beach outside of Ocean’s Reach had noticeably cleared and, as of this writing, has remained clean for the ten days since. The City is now reporting “good” to “excellent” conditions on all Sanibel beaches, with no red tide irritants present, no odor present and no sea life deposits present. Their daily reports can be accessed on mysanibel.com.
In addition, you can check conditions on myfwc.com, where the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission report sampling results from 32 different locations on or offshore of Lee County. The website also lists numerous other resources to reference if you’re interested.
With that being said, we’d like to say “Enough is enough.”
Our community has been victimized by ongoing water quality issues for years. The frequent releases of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee River — absent a long-requested water quality treatment component — contain a surge of fertilizers, pollutants and nutrients which combine to upset the delicate water balance in our estuaries, resulting in discoloration of our water and the destruction of oyster and seagrass beds that are the foundation of our ecosystem.
The ongoing $16 billion Everglades Restoration project was designed to divert more Lake Okeechobee water south, but last year lawmakers trimmed plans for a 60,000-acre reservoir to 17,000 acres. In 2016, they voted to extend a deadline for cleaning up Lake Okeechobee by another 20 years.
We can’t continue to watch the damage being done to the place we love.
We can’t continue to only pay attention when dolphins and manatees wash up dead on our beaches.
We can’t continue to simply go on to the next news cycle and remain indifferent to the lack of action being taken now.
Join us in urging elected leaders and key representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to implement long-overdue water quality programs designed to protect the precious marine habitats of Southwest Florida.
Text “MYSANIBEL” to 52886.
Click here to send a pre-written letter.
Or take the time to share your personal thoughts with them:
President Donald Trump
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Congressman Francis Rooney
Florida Governor Rick Scott
FL Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto
FL Representative Ray Rodrigues
FL Representative Dane Eagle
FL Representative Heather Fitzenhagen
FL Representative Matt Caldwell
Colonel Jason Kirk, District Commander and District Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Email: [email protected]
Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Reynolds, Deputy District Commander for South Florida for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Email: [email protected]