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I am back in sunny Florida where the weather is a heck of a lot nicer than it is up north! The arctic blast that came in last week signaled a decisive end to the fall weather. I actually left my home in Conesville a few days earlier than I had planned, to escape an upcoming storm. I was accused by the locals of bringing the cold weather down with me, since this past weekend was decidedly “Un- Florida-like.” It was in the 50’s and windy with a few showers that felt more like an October day in New York. Two days later though, it is back up in the 70’s and sunny! I love spending my winters here on the Gulf Coast, but I cannot say I am happy with how the Sunshine State prioritizes its environmental policies.

I just got this Press Release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Agency.

Today, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Eric Sutton applauded Gov. Ron DeSantis for his Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommendations for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

 

The budget will continue to fund high priority conservation items like invasive python eradication, red tide research, and coral reef disease response and restoration.

Budget highlights:

• $9.9 million to combat Invasive Species, which includes an additional $1 million for python removal.

• $3 million for the State Reef Fish Survey to estimate reef fishery populations.

• $1.9 million for Red Tide Research, which includes two dedicated staff.

• $4 million for Mechanical Removal of Invasive Plants.

• $2.4 for Coral Reef Disease Response and Restoration.

· $600,000 to Combat Wildlife Disease.

It seems to me they have their priorities seriously screwed up. Almost $10 million for “invasive species” with $1 million slated for python removal alone, $4 million for mechanical removal of Invasive plants, yet only $1.9 million for Red Tide research? This is a disgrace in the eyes of many people who love the coastal waters and the ecosystem they encompass. With millions of dead fish littering the beaches and toxic fumes that cause anyone walking on or near a beach to suffer coughing fits from the Red Tide spores, you might think that addressing this problem seriously is more important than killing pythons or cutting down trees. The amount of money budgeted this year is far less than the state spent 10 years ago even and the issue is now far more serious.

Red tide threatens coastal ecosystems far more than pythons or roadside weeds. The negative impact of Red Tide on Gulf tourism alone is a heck of a lot more than the $1.9 million they plan to spend on research. The state will spend $3 million just to survey fish populations on coastal reefs that are already being devastated by Red Tide. What they have already discovered is that Red Tides kill off most of the reef fish.

Last year’s Red Tide outbreak has caused the three most popular sportfish in the region, Speckled sea trout, Redfish and Snook to be restricted to “catch and release” only for an indefinite period. It is hard to convince people to spend $800 on a chartered fishing trip only to have to release all the fish they catch.

The sport and commercial fishing industry is still reeling from the after effects of last year’s outbreak. Tourists come to Florida mainly to recreate on or near the coast. When the local new from Tampa warns residents and tourists to completely avoid the beaches in Sarasota County, as was the case on the news last night, due to concerns over respiratory irritation, things are out of control. Tourists and residents should also refrain from eating any local fin fish or shell fish, and try not to notice the tons of dead fish on the beaches. It is pretty hard to ignore the stench created by the decaying fish even miles inshore as was the case last winter and it seems like a repeat this season as well.

Imagine if a toxic algal bloom wiped out most of the marine life along a 100 mile stretch of the Hudson River and forced residents to avoid even going near the river due to respiratory irritation.

Imagine having to bring in front end loaders to remove millions of dead fish lining the shoreline from Albany to New York City. Imagine if the entire north or south shore of Long Island was similarly impacted. Well, this is precisely what has occurred here on the Gulf coast of Florida and the governor’s response is to spend less than $2 million to “conduct research.”

If you are contemplating a Florida vacation this winter, as thousands of New Yorkers are, you need to be aware of the Red Tide Issue and plan accordingly.

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