When we founded Captains for Clean Water in February 2016, we had no idea how quickly it would grow. Initially, we didn’t plan on incorporating as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; to be honest, we didn’t know what those numbers and letters even meant. We did know was that there was a need in the community to have us share our experiences on the water and educate folks on what is happening to our estuaries with the hope of creating positive change. Captains for Clean Water has grown from a small group of concerned fishing guides to a well established nonprofit that engages all walks of life. Given the positive impact that our organization has already had in such a short time, we remain motivated and can proudly say “We’re here to stay!”
As fishing guides, we depend entirely on the health of the estuary to put food on the table, provide for our families, and satisfy our customers with lifelong memories from a productive day on Florida’s waters. During high volume Lake Okeechobee discharges, others may just see brown water while crossing a bridge on their way to work, but we see the brown water as extra hours spent in the mornings struggling to catch bait along with additional time and fuel expended to travel greater distances (away from the river) to catch fish. When we wake up hours before dawn to prepare for charters there is plenty of solitary time to wonder “Will my clients return if we don’t catch any fish?”, “Even if we catch fish will my client come back to our area if our day was spent surrounded by murky, dark water?”, “Will we still have jobs in twenty years?” “Are politicians in Tallahassee and water managers working as hard as they should be to save our dying estuaries?” Some of these questions are tough to answer, except the last one. After diving deeper into our water problems, it has become abundantly clear that we need more political will to save Florida’s estuaries. Some of the proposed solutions won’t even be implemented for decades as we are forced to watch our estuaries continue to die. Our livelihoods cannot wait as politicians continue to argue about political solutions to a situation that needs science-based solutions; we need to accelerate and expand projects today that will alleviate discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, while also providing Florida Bay and the Biscayne aquifer with desperately needed freshwater.
As fishing guides, we depend on our natural resources to make a living; because of this, we feel it is our responsibility to preserve our state’s estuaries so that we can safely pass on our skills and create lasting memories with our children. Doing so is not possible by just picking up trash, or restoring a few mangroves and oyster bars. Our estuaries are grossly mismanaged and it will take a large-scale change in policy and an increase of political will in Tallahassee and DC; we are excited to be a leading voice in this “sea-grass roots” effort to save our estuaries.
As we enter the dry season, our waters may start to clear up, some folks will even become complacent, but those of us who are on the water day in and day out will continue to see firsthand the lasting damage caused by the Lake Okeechobee discharges as well as the lack of flow reaching Florida Bay. As “simple fishing guides”, we can’t afford to match the tens of millions of dollars put into the political system by the large-scale corporate polluters. But we can continue to organize, polish, learn, and grow our authentic messaging to educate the public on the issues and solutions to our water problems, and we can continue to engage individuals, businesses and other organizations affected by the mismanagement of Florida’s water resources.
Captains for Clean Water has grown from a small group of fishing guides out of Punta Rassa, FL to a respected and leading organization in the fight to save our estuaries and restore America’s Everglades. Our organization continues to grow far beyond captains and fishermen. We have engaged waterfront homeowners, business owners and hoteliers and many others across South Florida- even partnering with giants in the marine and tackle industries such as SeaDek Marine Nonskid and Mustad Hooks.
We look forward to continuing to spread our message but we need your help. Consider making a tax-exempt donation to Captains for Clean Water as an investment in Florida’s estuaries.
Katy Danca Galli