Letter to the Editor: Regarding the Florida Marine Sanctuary and Billy Causey

As President and Chief Operating Officer of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc. (ROFFS™) I have learned to delegate projects to others at ROFFS™ including the ROFFS™ Fishy Times and other social media campaigns. I sometimes request a preview copy of the newsletter. Often I do not and last week I did not review it prior to publication and an character assassination of Billy Causey (Presently Regional Director, Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and previously managed the National Marine Sanctuaries in the Florida Keys) was published. Upon reading the published version I realized that much of the article in the Sunshine State News “Marine Sanctuary’s Wrong Science Accelerated Florida’s Coral Reef Destruction” was unsubstantiated. I then requested that the article be deleted from our website and the newsletter. I am the President and take full responsibility for this mess. While my Ph.D. is not related to Florida Keys water quality, I lived in Miami for 35 years and learned much about the ecology of the Keys from scientists and fishermen who have conducted research there for years. Billy along with others from NOAA, the Environmental Protection Administration, the National Park Service and others from many academic institutions have consistently been a major voice in the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and all other scientific venues that water quality matters as much as quantity. He has not been the only one working on this issue.

The fact is that the die off and degradation of the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem coincided with a much wider regional and in fact worldwide one. Some people feel it began with the opening of the Keys railway, or completing the overseas highway, or with allowing more development. However, water temperature increases, red tides, as well as, many other complicated factors have been contributing factors in the mortality of coral and fish in the Keys. I doubt if Billy Causey can control the water temperature in the Florida Keys or the movements of hazardous algal blooms coming from the west coast of Florida (yet another problem). I have been told by reliable and trusted scientific sources that the nitrogen and phosphorous levels on and around the reef has had no real spike to attribute the mortalities to, unlike in Florida Bay or other areas. Also that a substantial signature of nutrients in the water over the reef track comes from the west coast of Florida, as well as, Florida Bay.

The degradation of the ecosystem in the Florida Keys is a terrible situation and the water quality coming from the nearby land is clearly one major problem as is the water flowing from the Everglades. While some of the solutions to slow the degradation are available, such as the elimination of septic tanks, cesspits and shallow injection wells in the Florida Keys, as well as, the degradation of the Everglades, there does not seem to be the political will to do this and other things. Billy Causey does not control the politicians. We are having similar problems with nutrients and development in the Indian River Lagoon system in Brevard County, yet positive action is slow to happen due in part to the present political leadership. The degradation of our coastal ecosystems in the United States is beyond tragic. Why can’t the Everglades be restored to clean the mess coming from the middle of Florida? It is stupid and avoidable. But this is not the purpose of this letter.

Additionally the Sunshine State News article implies that Billy Causey alone caused the degradation of the Keys. This is nonsense. Billy has worked with many scientists, naturalists, conservation groups, and fishermen locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The fact he did not “earn” his doctorate is absurd and not related to his performance. Insiders know he finished (successfully) all his courses and exams before leaving to go to Texas to pursue other interests at the time. Being awarded a doctorate is often more difficult to achieve as it usually takes a lifetime of excellent work, reviewed by a larger group of peers to get the award. In all the years that I have known Billy, he has never pushed the idea of being called Doctor. Yes there are times that I have not agreed with Billy. But I have to say that he is always available to discuss and debate ideas and opinions. He is far from a dictator.

Finally, ROFFS™ has learned a lesson in publishing. We are primarily fisheries oceanographers and know that we still have much to learn about publishing and social media. Please help us with your suggestions.

Sincerely and Safe and Successful Fishing,

Mitchell A. Roffer (Ph.D.), President

Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc.

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