Rally ’Round the Issues

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We must have entered the age of speaking out, because from Minnesota to Florida, New York to L.A., boaters and anglers are rallying the troops to draw attention to issues and demand appropriate actions.

IN OHIO, advocates for good boating and ending algae blooms on Lake Erie have fired up electronic billboards that show a photo of the green goop that emanates from the manure of cows and hogs on so-called “factory farms,” aka concentrated animal feeding operations. These massive animal-pooping operations are responsible for huge amounts of algae-feeding phosphorus and nitrogen moving down streams and rivers into the lake.

The untreated waste from CAFOs is spread as fertilizer on farm fields. The phosphorous leaches into the watershed and feeds algae blooms in the lake. Research has identified nearly 25 million animals in more than 800 CAFOs surrounding western Lake Erie, and they generate as much phosphorous as the human populations of Ohio, Indiana, Chicago and Atlanta.

Organizers, led by such groups as Lake Erie Advocates, say nothing happens until we start talking about it, and that’s why this campaign aims to start the conversation about banning factory farms. Remarkably, several more such CAFOs currently have applications in for permits.

IN FLORIDA, boaters and others are marching with an urgent call from “sick bay.” Toxic red tide is washing up tons of dead fish in Tampa Bay and along the area’s prime beaches.

Paddleboard and PWC rental operations are closed. Fuel sales at local marinas are down. Hi-and- dry operations are abnormally quiet. Groups such as Suncoast Surf Riders, the Sierra Club and others organized a protest march last weekend in downtown St. Petersburg, calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency for Tampa Bay and respond with measures to address the fish kill and the water quality of Florida’s largest (300 square miles) estuary.

While red tide can be naturally occurring, experts believe that the heart of this year’s problem is the dumping of more than 200 million gallons of phosphorus- and nitrogen-laden waste water into Tampa Bay last April from the grounds of a fertilizer plant called Piney Point.

Aside from the stench and discolored waters from red tide, fishing will feel a long-term negative impact. Many species of baitfish and gamefish (grouper, snapper, tarpon) spend early development years in the protection of the bay before heading for the Gulf of Mexico. Following a red tide event, it could take a year or more to recover.

Meanwhile, some 25 local shrimp boats, no longer able to fish, have joined many boaters in scooping up dead fish to keep waterways and beaches clear. Sadly, experts say there’s no way to predict when the red tide will disappear; it could last for months.

IN MINNESOTA, it’s a fishy protest of another kind. It’s reported state Sen. Foung Hawj doesn’t like the label “Asian carp,” which comprises species originally imported from — guess where — Asia. They voraciously eat and multiply. They are creating big problems in the Midwest, infesting many rivers and now threatening to enter the Great Lakes.

Experts fear these 100-pound-per-day feeders will likely decimate the $7 billion annual Great Lakes commercial and recreational fishery by destroying native fish populations. Electric fences and other containment methods are being employed near Chicago to keep the carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

An Asian business delegation happened to arrive at Minneapolis airport and caught a glimpse of a sign reading “Kill Asian Carp.” Of course, this didn’t sit well. Hawj won approval of a measure mandating Minnesota agencies call the fish “invasive carp.” A bad fish by any name is still a bad fish.

ALSO IN MINNESOTA, can a tiny fish that’s released into a large body of water continue to grow to an amazing size? Apparently, yes.

In Burnsville’s Keller Lake, local officials reportedly caught 30 gigantic goldfish, up to 18 inches and weighing as much as 4 pounds. Best guess is the fish were released by owners thinking it was a humane way to dispose of unwanted pets.

The invasive species, a cousin of the common carp (but not a descendant of the Asian, I mean the invasive, carp) can grow to exceptional size in open water, threatening the survival of native fish.

IN MICHIGAN, there’s good news if you’re a Great Lakes angler. Fishermen reeled in a 39.2-pound, record-setting salmon during a tournament in Muskegon earlier this month. It was the heaviest fish in the history of the Tournament Trail Muskegon Open, a popular Lake Michigan fishing circuit now in its 18th year, according to a post on the tournament's Facebook page.

Salmon is just one of the gamefish in the Great Lakes that would be threatened if Asian carp were to ever gain access. I’ve boated and fished these lakes for more than 40 years; they are magnificent inland seas worth every protection.

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