Miami-Dade fireboats hit the water to help with major fish kill in South Florida waters

Another day of dead marine life surfacing in Biscayne Bay as the swath of suffocated fish appears to be spreading.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Another day of dead marine life surfacing in Biscayne Bay as the swath of suffocated fish appears to be spreading.

On Saturday, members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue went out on the water to help the animals breathe.

The effort was coordinated by Miami Waterkeeper after reaching out to Port Miami for use of their fireboats.

Two fireboats were deployed into Biscayne Bay to the most critical areas showing dangerously low oxygen levels, which has killed thousands of fish and other marine life over the past week.

The mission for the crew of Fireboat 21, which welcomed Local 10 News' Louis Aguirre aboard Saturday, was to aerate the sections of the bay most in need, creating more oxygen in the water.

“It’s a big bay, a lot of gallons of water,” said Fireboat 21 Capt. Jorge Gonzalez of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “We’re only affecting a little bit. Luckily the fish kill has only been concentrated to a few spots and those are the areas we’re hitting”

What’s happening is that the pump on the boat is sucking up thousands of gallons of water a minute and shooting it right back into the bay, stirring up the water, providing more oxygen for marine life to breath.

“We hope we can reverse the die off,” said Gonzalez. “We can’t bring the dead fish back but for all the fish that are still hanging on that’ll be a good thing.”

The mission also took the fireboats to the waters of Morningside, thought to be the epicenter of the fish kill.

Back in North Bay Village, while sea gulls and other seabirds feasted on the easy bounty, residents on their balconies cheered on the fireboats as they circled the bay.

Unfortunately, Saturday's actions are merely a band aid to an overwhelming situation. Miami-Dade needs to act urgently, there is too much at stake.

“Understand that the health of Biscayne Bay is the lynch pin of our economy here, and if we don’t have beautiful water and thriving marine ecosystem, we’re going to have serious problems very soon,” said Rachel Streitfeld, the Vice Chairperson of the Resiliency Sustainability Task Force North Bay Village.

Added Marvin Wilmoth, the Vice Mayor of North Bay Village: “It’s going to take all the cities around here in addition to those that are inland making changes to the ordinances and policies to make sure that we have a sustainable and resilient Biscayne bay.”

The Hail Mary effort by Miami Waterkeeper appears to have worked. During the mission, oxygen levels in the bay simultaneously measured by a team of researchers from FIU’s Institute of the Environment were at 15%. After the mission was complete, oxygen levels had rebounded to 30%. 

Miami Waterkeeper stresses that bacteria levels in the bay by Morningside were dangerously high likely because of all the dead fish in the water. 

In coordination with the City of Miami composting bins have been strategic placed along the western shore of Biscayne Bay most affected by the fish kill. Residents are encouraged to dispose of dead fish they find along the shore as the decomposing fish become a breeding ground for bacteria that sucks up a lot of oxygen from the bay already at critically low levels.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.