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Watch now: The fight for clean water

by AFTCO 27 Aug 15:15 UTC
Rhett Morris and Captains for Clean Water © AFTCO

Whether jigging for grouper, sight fishing the tarpon migration, or banging the mangroves for snook, few places can compete with the diversity on offer in Florida. Unfortunately, the future of that paradise is uncertain.

Everyone and everything requires clean water. On a planet that has 71% water coverage, you would think the access to clean water is easy. Unfortunately, factors such as runoff, harmful algal blooms, plastic pollution and more are dwindling down clean water sources. In the end, fish need water to survive, and we as anglers need fish to survive too. Groups like Captains For Clean Water are making necessary steps in the fight for clean water.

Harmful algal blooms, seagrass beds laid bare and crippling fish kills have become the new norm. Capt. Rhett Morris of Charlotte Harbor assigns fault to the overdevelopment of coastal regions, agricultural interests, phosphate mining and an overall lack of clean water.

Captains for clean water

Capt. Morris is not alone in his assessment. Co-founded in 2016 by Capt. Daniel Andrews and Capt. Chris Wittman, the non-profit Captains For Clean Water aims to make things right. Despite having successful careers of their own, the two felt they might not have a fishery to guide in years to come. Giving heed to a higher calling, their time is now committed to the revitalization of Florida's aquatic ecosystems.

The heart of the clean water problem originates inland. Where once natural water flowed south through the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee, the water was redirected in hopes of draining the region for development. That water, crucial to the equilibrium of the Everglades and coastal habitats, now pours into the Gulf and the Atlantic. To compound the problem, the introduction of nitrogen and phosphorus via agricultural runoff and mining operations has turned the flows toxic.

Capt. Morris notes that this type of nutrient-rich water is a death sentence for seagrass, "and once that's gone, everything else begins to head south." Unfortunately, toxic algal blooms thrive off of the nutrients, wiping out literal tons of fish and posing health risks to humans. A recent study from the University of Florida confirmed the accusation, showing a causal link between man-made nutrient runoff from Lake Okeechobee and red tides.

The task for Captains For Clean Water is a tall one. Environmental groups, major brands, and many of Florida's most reputable guides are demanding a solution, and so should you. Competing interests with influence in Florida's legislature stand in the way, and the power of your voice and vote need to be heard. The future of Florida's water and prized fisheries require a unified front, and these captains are not going away without a victory. Healthy fish require healthy water, and in the words of Rhett Morris, "I will not sit back and let what I love die."

Water quality is a global issue. It's not just Florida that is experiencing these types of issues. We've highlighted the global issue of plastic pollution in the oceans. Captains For Clean Water is stepping up to fight ocean water quality issues in our back yard, many of which stemming from run off and manmade problems. The fight for clean water is here and involvement is necessary for our lakes, rivers, oceans and animals to continue to thrive.

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