In the Gulf of Mexico – not far from my home town, there lies a major ecological disaster. Right now shrimpers and fishers are losing work – they are losing the ability to provide for their families. A way of life is in danger of being eradicated.
Costal towns from Texas to Florida are all preparing for the worst and praying, hoping against all hope, for the best outcome. I grew up in a small costal town in Southwest Florida by the name of Fort Myers.
Now, Fort Myers is marked on this Google Map – notice the surroundings. All the green? Thos are wildlife preserves. From the Okaloacoochee Slough forest to the Everglades Wildlife Management area, there are dozens of these all over the state. I grew up in the Cecil Webb Wildlife Management Area – great place! I lived less than 5 minutes from the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed – of course, when I was growing up it was the Corkscrew Wildlife Management area.
These areas are so sensitive to change in the gulf. The wetlands depend on fresh salt water flux to survive. Many of the worlds most beautiful coral reefs lie just off this coast. Oil, in any form is seriously, aggressively and devastatingly toxic to coral. The reefs cannot survive the onslaught – they will die.
All of this didn’t have to happen… it didn’t need to be this way. Greedy executives thought they could rush the process – at all costs. Well – the cost was 11 lives, 17 injuries, and countless dead and sickened species of marine and animal life. Not to mention what this crap is gonna do to the mangroves that are so essential to live on the coast. The mangroves are the spawning and child rearing centers for a lot of different species of game fish including Snook, Red Fish, Mangrove Snapper, and many others. Mangroves cannot survive if oil covers the surface of the ocean – because their roots derive all the nutrition from the surface – in other words, we’ll poison them with oil.
I see images on television, I hear the President talk, and I think about how all of this is going to affect me, and my children in the years to come. Fortunately, our family is no longer a generational fishing family. We once were, with my stepdad having been a 5th generation mullet fisherman in Bonita Bay.
**Side note and interesting fact: My stepdad’s family once owned an island ya’ll! I’m serious.
In the map above, the Google marker is sitting on Mound Key Archeological State Park. This land was owned by, and homesteaded by my stepfathers great grand parents. Unfortunately, being a poor fishing family with seven kids, no car, and only a mullet skiff for transportation – they couldn’t handle the tax on the land, and the state took the island or “key” as it is called and turned it into a park. I would love to share more information about it with you but some other day. If you would like to learn more about the area and the history of Mound Key – you can check out this site.
**Ok, back on track now…
I grew up in these waters, and I fished these waters with my family. I know what a loss it is to those who depend on the sea for their sustenance. My family once depended on it.
Also – my grandfather and my father both were shrimpers – or Shrimp Boat Captains, as my grandfather preferred. He felt like “Shrimper” was a derogatory term for the industry. He was after all a very talented captain, who just happened to have seine nets that just happened to catch shrimp.
To me, there is nothing finer than Key West Pink shrimp. The big fat juicy ones, that grade out 10-12 a lb. I’ll miss those. I’ll miss the Mahi-Mahi, the Grouper, the Red Snapper, the Snook and the Redfish. They’re all going to go away, if something isn’t done to stop the oil. Because according to those that know, this stuff isn’t going to just going to go away overnight. This stuff could get out there and get hooked in the currents and dragged across the entire west coast. It’s not a matter really of if it will reach Fort Myers – it’s a matter of when the circumstances are going to be right – and the winds in favor of devastation…
I remember my life growing up on the beautiful white sand… walking miles without taking my feet out of the water once. Dipping nets full of shiny silver gold from the bays and river mouths. Watching dolphins play in the wake of our boat. Holding baby manatee’s in my arms in order to prevent gill net injuries… (a practice allowed by the Marine Fisheries as long as the manatee was unharmed).
It was an idyllic childhood spent swimming, fishing, boating, and skiing in some of the most beautiful waters, and pristine beaches in the world. And all of that is threatened… all of that could disappear forever.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined a time that the seafood industry in the gulf could be so devastated. Never did I believe that so much wildlife and marine life could be endangered by something so far away… Never did I think that someone would be greedy enough to throw caution and lives to the wind for the almighty black gold.
But now it’s happening – and my children are growing up knowing things that I never would have imagined could happen. Things have changed for the gulf coast – maybe permanently. Certainly for the foreseeable future.
I’m scared for the families who rely on the gulf coast for their income. Even tourism is down as the oil creeps along beaches and forms toxic balls of sludge. I’m scared that life as we know it has come to an end.
I know that the gulf coast is used to rebuilding itself, it’s done that for centuries. Its the price paid for living in paradise – you are totally at the mercy of the elements. These folks, they know how to face tragedy. Especially when it comes from the sea – one 150 mph gust at a time. They will survive, persevere, excel even.
Say a prayer, send a thought, and support the Oil Spill Relief in anyway you can – lives depend upon it!