Boat Builders & Charter Captains Lament Florida Water Quality

Over the last several years, water quality concerns from the Indian River, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have inundated the local and state news outlets. These are areas where veteran sportsmen, boaters and residents are all gravely concerned with inshore water quality.

Concern has spread as the algae blooms, red tide, and fish kills persist in the headlines.

Fishing, not Catching

Billy Rotne
Billy Rotne /

Water quality and fishing action has deteriorated to the point that some guides and charter captains are choosing to fold up their operations. Some have even decided to spear-head conservation efforts.

For example, Captain Daniel Andrews of Southwest Florida became the outspoken founder of Captains for Clean Water. Billy Ronte, a prominent Mosquito Lagoon guide, went public in March with his decision to call it quits. According to Billy, he’s hoping to give the fish a better chance to recover. He believes sea grass destruction, salinity problems and over-fishing have put tremendous pressure on the lagoon’s redfish population in recent years.

Ronte and Andrews have intimate knowledge of their regions’ fisheries and waters. Hearing their concerns and dismay regarding the current state of affairs should give us all pause.

A Broader Pain

Uneasiness with Florida’s degrading water quality is not confined to Captains and environmentalists. Spokespeople for iconic boat brands are coming forward as well.

Industry veterans such as Chris Peterson of Hells Bay Boatworks and Maverick Boat Group’s Scott Deal have been weighing in. They say many Florida builders are witnessing how water quality and public perception are affecting sales.

Isabella Vi Gomes of the Miami News-Times reported on these boat companies losing huge amounts of business due to the mismanagement of Florida’s water resources.

These issues are not just bad news for fishermen, boaters and watersports entrepreneurs. The negative effects of poor water quality (or the perception there of) ripple throughout the Florida economy as a whole. For a state so heavily dependent on tourism, it’s possibly a grave look into the future.

Even for residents with no interest in boating or fishing, any Florida homeowner who wishes to retain their property value should be paying close attention to these issues. Improving Florida’s water quality is a cause that will benefit us all.