How do you begin to tell a bird to not eat a fish? That’s the question I pondered upon Sunday afternoon at one of my favorite beaches. As I sat down quite a ways from the shore in order to distance myself from the smell of dead fish, I watched a Sandhill Crane fly in and poke his beak around the waters for a contaminated fish to catch. I already knew the answer to my question in that you can’t tell a bird anything. Birds are instinctive, and only speak the language of birds. I got up to scan the rest of the shore line for evidence of other lifeless species whose bodies had been washed ashore by the breaking of waves. To my expectation, I found crabs moving in a slow-motioned like pace turning in circles almost confused as to what their instincts were telling them. I also found ells lying in sand surrounded by dead fish looking all to out-of-place as their snake-like bodies were thrown and landed in whatever direction the sea decided they should lay. I also found a lifeless sea turtle.
You see, that’s what red tide does. It takes the life out of living marine animals, birds, and fish. It takes their instincts and makes them defective. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “a red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant like organism).” Red tides can take on the colors of red or brown, and create a “foggy” appearance in the water. Red tides do occur normally, in fact yearly, but in low concentrations creating no health risk for humans or fish; it’s when the concentrations are high that cause worry. When high concentrations of algae bloom are in water, it paralyzes the central nervous system in fish, which makes it to where they can’t breath. Not only does red tide just affect fish, it kills invertebrates such as shrimp, sponges, sea urchins, crabs, and certain shellfish. It also affects sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees. Birds are effected by eating contaminated fish.
Not only is red tide harmful to sea life, but it’s harmful to humans as well. Just swimming in waters effected by red tide can cause eye and respiratory irritation. Those with asthma will experience more severe side effects. Make sure not to eat any fish, shellfish, or oysters contaminated by red tide toxin, or you will become severely ill. Sometimes we have the opportunity to point blame on mother nature; she can create a fierce hurricane, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes, but unfortunately, we can’t blame her for this one. We have human kind, yet again, to blame for this foul-smelling catastrophe. A fellow beachgoer with a bucket in hand and eye’s glued to the sand for sharks teeth, looked up and saw me wading in the water evaluating what had died. He looked up at my husband who was just a short distance from me avoiding the water like a plague and asked,
“How much longer can I walk and will I still see dead fish?” He gazed over at me and continued to say, “I can’t believe you are in the water.”
This Atlanta tourist was right, I shouldn’t have been in the water, and to answer his question, he would be walking to the ends of the county before he found a spot without dead fish lining the shore. So how on earth did our water become so corrupt?
Lake Okeechobee is America’s second biggest freshwater lake in the lower forty-eight. Approving policies have let Lake Okeechobee become a place of a private dumping ground for huge agriculture corporations. The corporations have permission to take water from lake Okeechobee to irrigate their fields. They then dump the water that is now filled with fertilizer and other farm chemicals back into the lake. Because of this last winters large rainfall accumulation, lake Okeechobee was raised with high water, causing a need to dump water. Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dike is ancient and fragile, South Florida water managers have been releasing 1.1 billion gallons a day into two different rivers, which dump into our coast. This fact saddens me and angers me, leaving me feeling like bigger companies with money always have the last say. Luckily, there are ways you can fight back. By signing this Red Tide Petition, you can have your voice be heard by local and state representatives.
There’s always a solution to a problem, but sometimes we can’t reach a solution before the problem hits. How many more big companies are going to defile our water before something is done. I wish I could say that at the end of this blog I have a solution that is going to solve this issue, but I don’t. The facts are not easy to take in, especially when we are killing marine life on the endangered species list, such as the manatees. We have an option to stay out of the water, and though my curiosity drew me into the water Sunday despite red tide, the ocean isn’t my home like it’s home to many sea creatures that depend on us for their survival. They don’t get a chance to jump out of the water for a couple of weeks until the algae clears up. That water is the air they breathe. The sandy bottom is the ground they feed off of and crabs craw on. You see, this world isn’t about us humans, it’s about keeping a clean home for those who never pollute our world like we pollute theirs. It’s about those special moments you spend watching cranes fly in and poke their beaks into the water for fish, because I know that with every new generation those times are going to be lost and we will be staring into a lifeless ocean.