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Water Quality Report: Invasive species fishing tourney looks for hooks to educate

A father teaches his son how to fish
A father teaches his son how to fish


The 2023 Southwest Florida Invasive Fish Roundup is this weekend in hopes of not just catching tilapia, Mayan cichlids, and armored catfish, but to also raise awareness of how harmful invasive species – in this case the swimming type – can be.

And if you are “catching” this Water Quality Report after the weekend of May 6-7, 2023, read it anyway.

There is a bunch of interesting information here to “school” you about how invasive species of all types can affect our water quality and, basically, ruin lives (mostly in the long term, but some professions are already hurting.) See? You’re “hooked” even if the children’s event is over. How punny.

First: The Event

The invasive fish roundup is led by Michael Sipos, an Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent in Collier County, who is trying to bring awareness of the problem to young people to begin their awareness and education.

Someday one of the junior-angler/scientists-to-be might even find a solution to the invasive-species problem everywhere, not only in the Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area where the contest is being held this weekend.

“There is probably going to be thousands of fish reeled in. It’s going to be pretty neat,” Sipos said to ABC-7 News in Southwest Florida. “This roundup is to spread invasive species information. We’re helping the environment, but that is more of a Band-Aid on the issue.”

The competition runs from May 5 to 7 and includes all legal freshwater fishing areas in Hendry, Glades, Lee, Collier and Charlotte Counties. The weigh-in, which will include free educational activities, is Sunday at the Bass Pro Shops in North Fort Myers.

Sipos said, in 2022, the initiative brought in 1,884 pounds of invasive fish to weigh-in, which was 3,413 actual fish of 12 species.

This year the tourney brought in 138 registered anglers, 90 adults and 48 children. Sipos hopes there will be even more invasive types caught than those angling for them.

“By removing invasive fish, we’re definitely helping the environment,” Sipos told Waterman Broadcasting of Florida. “That education portion is almost the most important: Reminding people not to release their pets, consider native species instead of non-native.”

Second: The Problem

Water-borne invasive species - whether fish, plants, tiny organisms, cruentations, algae - can get into Southwest Florida’s waters in about as many ways as there are invasive species themselves: an unknown passenger on a plant, in the ballast water of a ship, and by people on purpose.

It often happens by pure mistake, like when a monster hurricane floods a home (hi, Ian) with so many feet of water that that colorful fish from the pet store with that unpronounceable name swims right out of the top of the tank in Timmy’s bedroom, and into the Everglades.

Invasive species can lead to the extinction of native plants and animals, destroy biodiversity, and permanently alter habitats.

Invasive species alter habitats by changing biodiversity, which leads to a greater competition for food and other resources, which in turn can lead to the extinction of native plants and animals.

As that happens time and again it can become regional in scale – global in time – and disrupt enough ecosystems to cause significant environmental, economic, and social impacts worldwide.

“It’s no secret that invasive species are a problem across the Unites States, and Florida is a hot spot,” Sipos wrote. “These plants and animals cost the economy billions in terms of agricultural losses and management and can cause immeasurable damage to the environment with impacts from invasive species being a frontrunner for species extinction.”

The National Ocean Service have a nifty video about water-born invasive species here.

If you spot any type of invasive species, or even think you do, you can report it here.


Over the past week, no red-tide bloom was detected despite constant and intensive water quality testing in the ocean off Southwest Florida .


That is saying something after Karenia brevis, the tiny organism that can gorge itself into a familiar, red, stinky, fish-killing situation, finally did not do so.

K. brevis has been active for more than six months since Hurricane Ian left nutrients in the Gulf of Mexico off Southwest Florida ripe for the stinky blooms.

In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at low concentrations in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties

K. brevis is endemic in ocean waters, so no surprise that it was detected in little bits in 46 samples collected from Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

But, again, nowhere off Southwest Florida was the microorganism plentiful enough to create a full-blown red tide bloom.

Scattered reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received over the past week from Sarasota County. Breathing problems perhaps related to red tide were reported in Sarasota and Lee counties.

For more information on red tide in the region, including maps and reports with additional details, click here.


The Lee County Environmental Lab found reported moderately abundant components of blue-green algae at the Alva Boat Ramp as visible specks on the surface and in the water column.

More was moderately abundant upstream of the Franklin Locks as visible specks, and the same was at the Davis Boat Ramp with some wind-driven accumulation along the ramp.

Several days ago, satellite imagery from Lake Okeechobee showed low bloom potential on the western shoreline of the lake and in Fisheating Creek, covering about 20 square miles.

What is red tide?

Red tide is one type of harmful algal bloom caused by high concentrations of the toxic dinoflagellate K. brevis, which is a type of microscopic algae found in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide typically forms naturally offshore, commonly in late summer or early fall, and is carried into coastal waters by winds and currents. Once inshore, these opportunistic organisms can use nearshore nutrient sources to fuel their growth. Blooms typically last into winter or spring, but in some cases, can endure for more than one year.

Is red tide harmful?

K. brevis produces potent neurotoxins (brevetoxins) that can be harmful to the health of both wildlife and people. Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air. This is why you should monitor conditions and stay away from beaches where red tide is in bloom. People in coastal areas can experience varying degrees of eye, nose and throat irritation during a red tide bloom. Some individuals with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic lung disease might experience more severe symptoms. Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, which can lead to fish kills.

What causes red tide?

A red tide bloom develops naturally, but recent studies have discovered mankind's infusion of other nutrients into the mix can make the red tide last longer or get stronger. But biology (the organisms), chemistry (natural or man-made nutrients for growth) and physics (concentrating and transport mechanisms) interact to produce the algal bloom. No one factor causes the development of a red tide bloom.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are a group of organisms that can live in freshwater, saltwater or brackish water. Large concentrations, called blooms, can change the water color to blue, green, brown, orange or red. Some cyanobacterial blooms can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of freshwater lakes and ponds. As algae in a cyanobacterial bloom die, the water may smell bad

Is blue-green algae harmful?

Different types of blue-green algal bloom species can look different and have different impacts. However, regardless of species, many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins that can make you or your pets sick if swallowed or possibly cause skin and eye irritation. The Florida department of Environmental Protection advises staying out of water where algae is visibly present as specks or mats or where water is discolored. Pets or livestock should not come into contact with algal bloom-impacted water or with algal bloom material or fish on the shoreline. If they do, wash the animals immediately.

What causes blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae blooms occur when the algae that are normally present grow in numbers more than normal. Within a few days, a bloom can cause clear water to become cloudy. Winds tend to push some floating blooms to the shore where they become more noticeable. Cyanobacterial blooms can form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients. Blooms can occur at any time, but most often occur in late summer or early fall.

If any major type of water quality alert is issued, you can find the details here in WGCU’s Water Quality Report.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

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