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Officials hoping latest Biscayne Bay fish kill is not a sign of things to come

Another fish kill was discovered in northern Biscayne Bay over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Another fish kill was discovered in northern Biscayne Bay over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Another fish kill was discovered in northern Biscayne Bay over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

“My heart just sank,” said Rachel Silverstein, Executive Director of Miami Waterkeeper. “We were on standby all weekend, watching the conditions. Unfortunately, here with are again with more dead fish in northern Biscayne Bay.”

Reports came in of people seeing dozens of dead fish floating at the surface or gasping for breath in the bay, stretching from Normandy Isles and the 79 Street Basin down to the 63rd Street Bridge and Indian Creek in Miami Beach.

“So far, it’s not as severe as last year,” Silverstain said. “We’re getting about seven reports, ranging from a dozen to a couple hundred fish, and we’re just hoping it doesn’t get worse.”

Miami Waterkeeper has been working with scientists and Miami-Dade County, closely monitoring the situation after getting pings from FIU’s research buoys in the north bay that dissolved oxygen levels were once again dangerously low.

“Starting in September, the first we had a significant drop of dissolved oxygen concentration,” said Dr. Henry Briceño with the FIU Institute of Environment.

High temperatures, low wind, low current and lots of rain that flushed all the nutrient heavy waters from our polluted canals like the little river right into Biscayne Bay, creating a deadly perfect storm.

“Those are not good news,” said Dr. Briceño. “Usually when those combine, we develop very bad conditions for fish to survive.”

It is exactly what caused last summer’s unprecedented fish kill in the bay, when over 27,000 fish and other marine life died. The bay has been bracing for this ever since.

Irela Bague is Miami-Dade’s Chief Bay Officer, leading the daunting mission to reduce our pollution load and restore the health of the bay.

It will be a long and painstaking process, but there’s urgency to fix it now.

“Sadly, that’s the new normal for now, until we finally get a grip on lowering those nutrient levels,” said Bague. “This is why we’re trying to do everything we can, septic to sewer conversion, replacing our aging infrastructure.”

There were no reports of dead fish on Tuesday. SKY 10 flew over the bay in the morning and couldn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet.

“If you see fish swimming at the surface, if you see dead fish, let us know exactly where you’re seeing that,” said Silverstein. “Send us photos send us videos.”

Reports of fish kills, along with photos and videos, can be emailed to baywatch@miamidade.gov.

DON’T TRASH OUR TREASURE

Read more about Local 10 News’ Louis Aguirre’s local environmental work by clicking here


About the Author:

Louis Aguirre returned home to Miami and Local 10 in September 2017.