Catch of the Day: 621 Burrfish, 24 Pounds of Trash


I chose a different area to cleanup today along the northern IRL and finally ran across enormous evidence of fish kills that were reported from many of Florida’s coastal waterways following the freeze.  On a single 300 ft stretch of beachline (about a football field length) I found 621 dead burrfish, 5 northern pufferfish, 18 mojarra, 1 southern lined seahorse, and 19 adult and juvenile stage horseshoe crabs.

While it’s not uncommon to find a carcass or two of various species while tramping around the shorelines in and among the mangroves the sheer multitude of fish and invertebrate bodies was overwhelming at this spot.  I imagine the very low and weak tidal forces at work in this spot, as well as its position in relation to the usual oncoming breezes, brought so many decaying skeletons to this area and kept them here instead of washing back out.

At some places in my shoreline walk the dead burrfish bodies were piled so thickly into the sand that I had to make giant leaps to avoid walking on any of them.

I left the decaying bodies in place but did manage to pick up 24 pounds of debris from the field today.  Some of the more interesting finds: flip flops, fifteen feet of rope and an attached styrofoam buoy replete with algae and barnacle growth, a lightbulb, a paring knife, swim goggles, and a car battery (which was so heavy I didn’t include it in the weight total).

On the upside, my rather unusual antics caught the attention of no less than seven locals who all talked to me at various stages in my walk about the state of the lagoon, the amount of trash they see, and the effects of fish kills on their recreational angling.  It’s times like these that I wish I was wandering around with business cards, or a nicely logo’d polo shirt, to spread the word about WaterNotes and other water-related projects here in Florida.