OKEECHOBEE — A group of anglers are planning a peaceful protest of the chemical spraying of aquatic plants on Lake Okeechobee.
The protest, advertised on social media, calls for boaters and other concerned citizens to meet on Friday, Nov. 15, starting at 5:30 a.m., at the pier and recreation area on the north side of the Big O, commonly known as “Lock 7” (also called the Clif Betts Jr. Lakeside Recreation Area or Jacyees Park) on State Road 78.
The anglers plan to have their boats in the water before the spray boats launch. The protesters will not block the boat ramp.
“Everyone is invited,” said Jason Blair. “Citizens, birdwatchers, airboaters and anglers — if you’re against the spraying of dangerous chemicals in our waters and or the management of our waters, then come out and make your voices heard!”
The controversial Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) policy of using chemical herbicides to control invasive aquatic plants has drawn complaints from boaters and fishermen for years. Earlier this year, after more than more than 176,000 people signed the “Stop the State-Sanctioned Poisoning of Our Lakes and Rivers” petition on change.org, FWC temporarily paused the spray program and conducted public meetings. Thousands of anglers turned out for the meetings, with the vast majority of participants calling for limits on use of chemical herbicides and more use of mechanical harvesting. The fishermen also called for more oversight of the contractors who do the spraying.
When the spraying resumed, some anglers took to social media, posting videos of the spray boats and photos of native plants, animals and fish they say were killed or injured by the chemicals.
FWC’s website, myfwc.com, includes the spraying plans in their “What’s happening on my lake?” page.
The FWC schedule for Nov. 11-15 calls for spraying by Applied Aquatic Management of floating plants (Eichron and Pistia) in the area of the lake called the Monkey Box with 2,4-D, Penoxsulam, Diquat and Flumixzan.
Twenty-five acres of Cuban bullrush, also in the Monkey Box area, will be treated with Diquat.
Floating plants will also be treated in Pelican Bay, Halifax Banks and Chancy Bay with 2.4-D, Penoxsulam, Diquat and Flumioxazin.
The FWC website states, “Floating plant acreage is estimated to be around 800 acres. This treatment is necessary to limit ecological damage to the diverse native plant communities. Floating plants are intermixed with native vegetation. This treatment has been expanded from original plan due to movement of plants by winds wile the treatment plan was being developed. Plants have moved down the Moore Haven Canal as well as to other parts of the lake, expanding the areas needing treatment as well as causing blockages in boat trails and at control structures. This treatment will incorporate both mechanical and chemical control methods.”