Space Coast Progressive Alliance

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Saturday, 11 May 2013 08:13


Written by 

By Spence Guerin and Fred Markham

The FLORIDA TODAY article of May 5, 2013, "A lagoon in collapse? Something is happening in the Indian River Lagoon" has some serious shortcomings, to the point of obscuring the underlying causes of the problem. In particular, the article prominently and inaccurately states "nobody knows why," suggesting that the root causes of the Indian River Lagoon's environmental collapse are unknown.

Instead of citing detailed technical evidence from expert sources, the paper takes the folksy, touchy-feely approach of including comments from concerned citizens, as in: “Right now, nobody has any clue what’s wrong,” said Mike Badarack, who runs flats-fishing charters in the lagoon. “Just everything’s dying.”  Now, Mike Badarack has every reason to be concerned - his very livelihood is at stake. But FLORIDA TODAY misinforms the public when it includes Mr. Badarack's comment that "nobody has any clue what's wrong" without also including that scientific evidence points directly to the real root causes of the problem.  While it is entirely appropriate to empathize with the crabbers and fishermen who take their living from the lagoon, it is entirely inappropriate to let that empathy obscure the facts of what is causing the failure.

In fact, the root causes of the environmental collapse of the Indian River Lagoon are known, and it is hard to understand why FLORIDA TODAY would not include them in such an article.  Unfortunately, the article was written without interviewing any of a number of knowledgeable environmental scientists who can and will speak freely about the collapse of the Indian River Lagoon -- scientists who know exactly  what is causing the lagoon's collapse.

For example, Marine Resources Council Executive Director Dr. Leesa Souto, whose PhD focused on the bad effects of nutrients (fertilizers) in estuary waters, was not interviewed for the article.  Nor was Dr. Diane Barile, the founding director of Marine Resources Council. These people have a deep understanding of the problem, backed by significant research and data, and no article about the Indian River lagoon's failure can be complete without including input from these experts or numerous others who study the problems in Florida's coastal waters including Indian River Lagoon.
Another important facet of the problem is the commercially motivated politics that prevents Tallahassee from reining in the pollution that is one of the chief root causes of the lagoon's pending collapse.  For example, the Florida Today report could have included information that Florida Representative Steve Crisafulli, Republican, Merritt Island, has attempted to have legislation passed that would prohibit local governments from enacting local ordinances to prevent fertilizer run-off into the lagoon, when that runoff is known to be a primary cause of the algae blooms that contribute to further lagoon degradation. By not including the fact that such political pandering to commercial interests is an underlying factor in the problem, the Florida Today is seriously misinforming the public. 


In this article, the editors of FLORIDA TODAY have failed to provide the 'critical press' required of an informed citizenry.
Last modified on Sunday, 12 May 2013 05:27


  • Comment Link Clyde White Tuesday, 14 May 2013 19:48 posted by Clyde White

    I personally can appreciate, and understand the degradation of the lagoon. A study I have read claimed the lagoon has lost more than half of the fish that it had in the mid eighties. I know this even though I only moved here in 2001. My Aunt, and uncle had a home on the river in Sebastian then, and I visited them with my mother in 1984, and 1986. I recall walking out on their 160 ft. pier, and seeing much sea grass and some fish. I used to crab from that pier. When I got here 11 years ago, I walked out on that same pier, and the grass was completely gone, and no fish either. I have fished in the lagoon many times from a boat. I do not use fertilizer, yet still have a nice lawn. My question still remains however. What realistic solutions would there be to curb, or prevent fertilizer runoff?

  • Comment Link Fred Markham Sunday, 12 May 2013 05:54 posted by Fred Markham

    Clyde, We should in fact change our preference for lush green lawns over the life of the river. That's a no brainier. The dust bowl reference is apt, but not how you've framed it. Bad farming practices and greed combined with drought to create the dust bowl, where life could barely hang on. We are doing the same thing now to the Indian River Lagoon.

  • Comment Link Greg Wilson Saturday, 11 May 2013 18:00 posted by Greg Wilson

    "Steve Crisafulli, Republican, Merritt Island, has attempted to have legislation passed that would prohibit local governments from enacting local ordinances to prevent fertilizer run-off into the lagoon,"

    Thank you for your article. It was in this legislative session that I saw most Clearly l the local community is actually is in a fight against their own representatives. We need to continue to call attention to this dynamic and hopefully it will begin to be an election issue. We know without a doubt that those living along the river would fight to preserve the life of the river. Maybe they would lead the charge this election cycle.

  • Comment Link Clyde White Saturday, 11 May 2013 10:57 posted by Clyde White

    Commercially motivated? Hmmm. Considering the fertilizer runoff is by far coming from individual lawns, what would be the solution? Freeze housing permits to stunt population growth? Do you use fertilizer on your lawn? Or for a garden, or flowers? Should individuals allow their lush green lawns to evaporate, and become like the Oklahoma dust bowl of the 30's? Just askin'.

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