For the past week, residents along Florida’s Space Coast from Melbourne to Titusville have been reporting an alarming number of dead fish in the water. According to lifelong residents like Captain Alex Gorichky, a conservationist who runs a small fishing tour company, it’s the worst fish kill in decades.
“There are hundreds of dead fish," Gorichky reports from the Banana River Lagoon off the coast of Cocoa Beach. Every species of fish in the lagoon, even redfish that have been breeding for 35 years, are belly-up,” “The stretch is 30 miles long, and we’re looking at devastating amounts of fish floating throughout that whole 30-mile stretch.”
Gorichky remembers a few other fish kills in the past ten years or so but nothing like this. He says those were isolated incidents that happened in the hot summer months and mostly in stagnant water.
“It’s not an isolated incident; we’re talking about wide-open expanses of rivers, canals, pockets of water with no tidal flow,” he says. “We’re going to have a serious problem once they start decaying.”
No one is sure what is causing the latest sprawling fish kill. El Nino and the unseasonable heavy winter rains sent a wave of polluted runoff into the waters. This surely weakened the health of the ecosystem, but it was exacerbated last week when there was a sudden spike in temperatures. This caused a “super bloom” of green and brown algae that killed acres of underwater sea grass and depleted oxygen levels for fish and other marine wildlife.
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“The best way to describe the water is radioactive-Yoo-hoo green,” Gorichky says.
Marty Baum, of the Indian Riverkeeper — a group of fishermen and citizens who monitor the health of the Indian River — joined Gorichky on the water to see the devastation for himself.
“It’s death as far as I can see in every direction,” Baum says. “I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”
Here are five photos, provided by Gorichky and Indian Riverkeeper board member Marjorie Shropshire, that show the devastation of the latest fish kill: