Red tide meeting a success in one man’s eyes

August 30, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:
The Friday evening, 24 August Red Tide meeting at the Englewood Event Center was successful. It was a full house, they had to turn at least a hundred guests away; the house was packed to capacity. Joe Tiseo our concerned Charlotte County Commissioner took the time to attend and listened carefully. We even had Governor candidate Bruce Nathan sit in on our panel.  He is a family man from the St Lucie area, also concerned about our algae problems and possible solutions.
Our speakers presented their positions and ideas. The first quest was Dr Richard Pierce from Mote Marine Research in Sarasota. If you have never visited their facilities on City Island you need to go. This is the perfect time because you will have no crowds to contend with like we do in season. Take advantage and enjoy the aquariums and exhibits. You can learn and have family fun. He presented some of the science about both red tide and blue green algae. He also mentioned a third brown algae. These are complex challenges.
John Heims of SWFL Clean Water Movement out of Ft. Myers, was next. He passionately worked his enthusiastic followers and alienated others with his personal agenda ideas. He also worked to arouse his peeps against Mote and was confused in many “facts” plus numbers he shared. This was not his most effective presentation. He hit the usual scapegoats blaming big sugar, Mosaic, and agriculture for our problems. Since the meeting it seems he also has problems with his fundraising activities permits and accounting; WINK News, pointed out these issues.
The last speaker was Captain Planet, Garret Stuart, a soft-spoken expert, algae scientist. He clearly understood how to grab the rooms attention speaking quietly; sharing good scientific information and thought out ideas. He even introduced us to the Duck Weed solution? This sounds interesting, seriously but. We must be extremely careful that anything we introduce to solve problems can be controlled so it doesn’t become a bigger problem! He emphasized that the only successful path forward was united, to pursue positive results! You can follow him on Captain Planet on Facebook.
There were discussions about numerous, varied, toxicities from both problem algae; these are dangerous health challenges we face. We must be concerned about short term repertory issues; then even more serious long-term risk. The red tide is bad; the blue green algae is even more dangerous! I’m not the scientist to accurately explain it, but the neurotoxins from both the red tide and blue green algae can mess with our respiratory and nervous systems.  Read up on these dangerous problems and avoid, at least reduce contact! These are real problems that require prompt attention for public safety! Besides all the wildlife deaths.
We did endure a few childish hecklers; but most present were respectful. A few loud attendees wanted to crucify Mote Foundation for accepting money from Mosaic. We assured all that Mote accepts many donations, but no one is buying their scientific research. Apparently, Mosaic donated about a $150,000 for Mote’s snook hatchery and I believe turtles. I confess a soft spot for Mote’s snook hatchery because I worked hard with Mr. Mote to help create and nurture it. Fisherman can’t be too picky about where monies come from if we don’t provide the funds for fishery management ourselves! This might be a great time for stock enhancements to replenish lost snook and redfish stocks? The only thing missing to jump start fish recovery is clean waters, and the money to fund fish releases. The programs are available and have been for decades. I invested 15 years efforts with this also, working with Florida Marine Research Institute in St Pete on their Stock Enhancement Advisory Board.
Many questions were fielded from the audience. The hosts; Curt Bowen of the Englewood Event Center, Rachel Wells, of Ride the Waves, and Jill Prinner and all others for an amazing job and they are commended for their contributions! Most, of the questions were seeking a better understanding of our problems, the challenges we face, or how can we fix things.  With so many complex issues, multiple problems and sources this was not solved. It was a good start to address our issues with factual scientific understanding, collectively.
Personally, I’d like to put together a panel. First, they introduce themselves and then ask each other questions.  Then answer other questions because I believe we could dive in much deeper to identify our pollution sources, vet possible solutions, and concerns.
Of course, Big Sugar was brought up as a scape goat, but several panel members pointed out the fact that it is not a big pollution problem currently. We have bigger sugar problems than pollution. We do need to stay up on Mosaic’s continued efforts to mine in the Horse Creek watershed area where our drinking water comes from. It was also brought up that we carelessly use about half of our drinking water on our lawns.  Also, it was emphasized that lawn fertilizers are a big source of nutrients contributing to our red tide problems. It is already unlawful to fertilize during rainy seasons in most coastal counties.
The panel was professional and did our best to answer questions accurately even when a few hecklers didn’t like the facts. It was worthwhile and educational for most of us. I learned new ideas and heard about duckweed. Laugh but it could work; stranger things have helped. Right now, no one has any better solutions either? It’s going to take cooperation and serious work together to address any of the issues. Miracles are requested and the weather forecast of east winds all week thru Labor Day weekend would be a blessing.
If you are looking for a fishing trip this could be a good time to slip out and maneuver into clean waters and enjoy a day on the water. Stay safe and have fun. Our local businesses need your support. Please shop local and now! Thank you all.
Capt. Van Hubbard
Cape Haze