OKEECHOBEE — Mike Krause, of Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters, has been asked to be part of the new Aquatic Plant Management Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG was established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at the FWC February meeting, in response to the widespread criticism of the use of chemical herbicides to control invasive aquatic plants.
In late January, FWC temporarily paused the aquatic spraying program and then conducted a series of public forums about aquatic plant management. Hundreds of anglers and boaters turned out for the meetings around the state with the overwhelming majority asking for more limits on herbicide spraying and more oversight of the spray operators.
At the hearings, FWC officials appeared to be responsive to the public outcry against the use of chemical herbicides in state waters. But later in the year, FWC resumed the spraying program.
At the February FWC meeting, commissioners directed staff to establish the Aquatic Plant Management TAG. The TAG will be a forum for discussion on all aspects of the aquatic plant management program. Those interested in participating in the TAG were invited to submit applications to be part of the group.
“We hope this group will establish areas of common ground, identify problems, concerns, and areas of disagreement, evaluate scientific information, develop potential solutions to identified problems and provide a useful forum for sharing information and ideas,” FWC Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management Director Jon R. Fury wrote to Mr. Krause.
Mr. Krause has been outspoken in his criticism of the spraying program, which he said has “created an ungodly amount of buildup on the lake bottom where grass can’t grow.” He has also expressed concerns about the downstream effects of spraying conducted on the Lake Kissimmee and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, as well as on other waterways that flow into Lake Okeechobee. Mr. Krause said he has noticed alarming changes in the ecosystem. He noted that he knows several people who used to make a good living catching shiners in Lake Okeechobee to sell to bait shops. Now, no one is catching live bait in the Big Lake, he said, because it’s too hard to find.
The TAG includes:
• James Cooper of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;
• Mark Detwieler, owner of Big Toho Marina;
• Mark Edwards of Citrus County Aquatics Services;
• Dr. Jason Ferrell, director, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants;
• Jeff Fitts, former member of the Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society;
• Amy Giannotti, Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society;
The TAG’s first meeting is planned for Sept. 20, at the Orange County Agricultural Extension Service in Orlando.