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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Starr

Its international coastal cleanup time, and Trash isn't the only thing polluting our coast.

Saturday September 17th is International Coastal Cleanup Day, an annual global cleanup that has been dedicated to inspiring and engaging communities in working together to make an impact in removing trash from our coast for over 35 years. GBR is very excited to be a part of this global movement along with Keep Charlotte County beautiful. Bringing the community together for fun, adventure and conservation is what we love to do. I am however going to take this opportunity to address coastal pollution in a different context.

See, its rainy season here in Florida, it is a Subtropic and topical state after all. This is the time of year that the tropic climate is too hot and wet for snowbirds and tourist, but vital to all the beauty and fun that people come here to experience. On the other side of the rainy season is it now has also become a major source of our coastal pollution.

Agriculture runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in the United States ( T. Collins,2022) a subject I have been very passionate about for nearly two decades. Living in Florida I have seen the impacts of water pollution firsthand, and pretty much were my nickname the mermaid began. If you are a Florida resident, snowbird, or frequent tourist you are likely familiar with red tide. ( K.brevis) This very necessary phytoplankton that is classified as a harmful algae bloom is a massive symptom of agricultural runoff, stormwater pollutants (development) and massive change in our hydrology and nutrient cycles. This is a very complex subject and at the end of this blog I will source a more scientific article I wrote on nitrogen pollution and a few others. I also explain nutrient pollution and how it impacts the Gasparilla sound on most every tour, as it is a major problem we face here.

To make the long story sort, this time of year Florida should be wet, like real wet. Pretty much anywhere you see a house or a road or a mall, should be water from June till October what is called sheet flow. When the rains come the water should trickle down through Florida limestone topography to the aquifer and the rest should slowly flow through 1000’s of biodiverse plants that clean the water of nutrients before it runs into our estuaries and the gulf. But for us to inhabit this subtropical and tropical paradise we had to change the flow of water(hydrology), create monoculture lawns with nonnative plants that need fertilizer and herbicides and turn Florida into one big well groomed “park” Now while beautiful, this poses a problem for our water quality. This is because all those chemicals we use to grow our food, lawns, and exotic plants is also food for those harmful algae blooms such as red tide. And all those biodiverse plants we are killing to place monoculture farms, lawns and excessive developments are what would be cleaning the water. So not only are we removing what mother nature has in place to keep the water clean we are adding chemicals and changing the flow of water. YIKES!! Like I said this is a very complex cycle and more can be read in this article. Only Humans Would Find a Way to Pollute the Biosphere With an Element that is a Foundation of Life | by Michelle Bisson | GREEN ZINE | Medium

Make this weekend not only about picking up trash along our coast and waterways, take some time to learn about nutrient pollution and what you can do to help clean our waterways and lessen our impacts! Hint RETURN BIODIVERSITY!

We hope to see you out this Saturday morning at the launch for International Cleanup Day. If you rent a kayak or paddleboard and fill a garbage full of trash, you will get a gift certificate for one single to use at a later date. Friends of Pelicans will also be out to answer questions and share information on our pelican friends and Aaron and I of course will be there sharing all the fun.

There following is some links to information on Agriculture runoff and water pollution.

Stay Salty and fun

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