Florida is famous as a world-class destination for sport fishing and even boasts the title "Fishing Capital of the World." With thousands of miles of coastlines, back bays, tidal creeks, seagrass flats, and access to deep water in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, there is no shortage of fishing opportunities. From mahi-mahi, kingfish, tuna and sailfish in offshore waters to snook, redfish, trout, and tarpon, inshore, there are countless varieties of fish species thriving throughout Florida.
Photo: Angler with the catch-and-release of a beautiful Florida redfish in a coastal estuary
Water is the lifeblood of Florida yet, in recent years, water quality has been declining at an alarming rate due to decades of water mismanagement. This has adversely impacted businesses and fisheries throughout the state that rely on clean, healthy water to thrive.
Thankfully, there are organizations like our partner for the 4ocean Everglades Bracelet, Captains For Clean Water (CFCW), that are on the front lines advocating for the restoration and protection of these vital habitats.
By bringing water quality issues to the forefront with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the state and federal levels, CFCW has been successful in getting decision-makers to act on behalf of these indispensable ecosystems.
Photo: Captains For Clean Water raising awareness about water quality and Ever
Captains For Clean Water is a grassroots, non-profit organization that started out as a group of concerned fishing guides that "had enough" of Florida's poor water management practices which were destroying their backyards and their livelihoods. They were convinced that if everyone knew what they knew, the problem would have already been fixed.
They quickly learned that the solution is known, yet has been delayed for decades due to the lack of political will and public awareness. They realized that many fellow guides and anglers had no idea about the issues that were destroying their backyards and their livelihoods. So, they started by doing what fishing guides do best: talking to people. CFCW was born and their fight to save these ecosystems began.
By bringing the outdoor industry to the forefront of the fight for clean water, CFCW has helped shine a greater spotlight on the need for Everglades restoration and science-based solutions to Florida's water quality issues. Increasing awareness and educating the public has allowed them to be successful in getting policymakers to act on behalf of these indispensable ecosystems at state and federal levels.
"These wild places are so special to me because they have literally shaped me into the person I am today. ..Now that path has led me to want to get as many people as I can involved to help save these places," Captain Chris Wittman, Co-Founder of Captains For Clean Water.
Photo: Lake Kissimmee Chain, Central Florida
Much of the historical water flow in Florida, referred to as the the Kissimmee - Okeechobee - Everglades Watershed, belonged to one giant system of lakes, creeks, rivers, and marshes that stretched from Central Florida in the north, through Lake Okeechobee, and down the southern end of the peninsula through the Everglades and into Florida Bay.
Photo: Historical map of the Everglades and its water flow
But over the course of the last century, the natural southward flow was dammed, ditched, drained, and diverted which wrestled control of the water away from Mother Nature and put it squarely into the hands of man — much to the detriment of many of the ecosystems that make up Florida.
Photo: Port Mayaca Locks on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Photo: Toxic Blue-Green Algae warning in Florida waterway
With only one-third to one-sixth of the historic water flow making its way to the Everglades, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is in serious danger of collapse. Today, the water is managed largely for the benefit of special interest groups. When it is not needed, water managers discharge the polluted freshwater to the coasts via the Caloosahatchee River to the west and the St. Lucie River to the east.
Heavily-polluted from urban and agricultural runoff, the nutrient-rich freshwater disrupts the natural balance of the saltwater ecosystems on the coasts, causing devastating impacts such as toxic algae blooms, seagrass die-offs, and fish kills. Conversely, the Everglades and Florida Bay are starved of the freshwater they desperately need to survive.
Photo: Everglades Foundation, Historical vs. Current Everglades Water Flow Chart
Photo: Toxic Blue-Green Algae in Florida waterway
In 2000, Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) that was supposed to save the "River of Grass." At an original cost of around $8.2 billion dollars with a 35-year timeframe for completion, its promise of restoring the Everglades was heralded by many as the solution needed to make things right again. Fast forward 19 years, many projects outlined in the planhave not been started or have yet to be completed. Progress has been stalled due to corrupt politics dictating where the water goes and the lack of public awareness allowing policy makers to act without accountability.
There is hope, however. Man created these problems and man can fix them.
Earlier this year, Captains For Clean Water was instrumental in helping to push lawmakers to allocate the largest amount of state and federal funding for Everglades restoration to date, which will hopefully get these projects moving. And now more than ever, thanks to the efforts of CFCW, these water quality issues are beginning to get the attention they so desperately deserve from decision-makers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Photo: Captains For Cleanwater in Washington, D.C. fighting for Everglades Restoration
Additionally, new leadership at the South Florida Water Management District, the body in charge of overseeing water resources from Orlando to the Florida Keys, and a more aware Army Corps of Engineers, will hopefully allow the most pressing projects to be fast-tracked so that the real work of healing the Everglades can begin in earnest. And we know that CFCW will be there every step of the way!
"4ocean and Captains For Clean Water are similar organizations because we are working to mobilize people to save the planet and do things that are going to benefit everybody not just themselves. ..Getting people together and using every tool that we have....to fight today to protect something for tomorrow," Captain Daniel Andrews, Co-Founder of Captains For Clean Water.
Photo: Everglades "River of Grass" in its pristine state, South Florida
Have any of you ever been to the Everglades or Lake Okeechobee? Maybe you took an airboat ride or did some fishing yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to get involved or donate directly to Captains For Clean Water, head on over to their website and make it happen! They also make it easy for you to contact your elected representatives at both the state and federal levels to let them know you support Everglades restoration.
You can also show your support for Everglades restoration by ordering a 4ocean Everglades Bracelet. Every purchase pulls a pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines and helps raise awareness for the many issues that this wilderness faces.
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