Fighting for Florida’s Waterways: Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Spearheads “Win Back Our Water” Campaign

From Bonefish & Tarpon Trust:

(Miami, FL) November 13, 2023 – Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, whose mission is to conserve
bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries through science, education and advocacy, has launched a new campaign designed to raise awareness of Florida’s water quality issues. The campaign,
titled “Win Back Our Water,” highlights three key issues that have been identified as harming
Florida’s water quality: failing and/or outdated wastewater and stormwater infrastructure,
pharmaceutical contaminants, and glyphosate pollution that can result from the use of

“Win Back Our Water” aims to mobilize Floridians to take action to protect their state’s
waterways and builds on BTT’s water quality priorities, most notably advocacy in support of
Everglades restoration. The campaign emphasizes the importance of water quality not only for marine ecosystems but also for the many Floridians who depend on clean water for their
livelihoods, recreation, and quality of life.

“Florida is at a crossroads” said Jim McDuffie, BTT President and CEO. “Failing and outdated
wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, pharmaceutical contaminants, and glyphosate
pollution threaten our coastal aquatic resources, economy, and way of life. The ‘Win Back Our
Water’ campaign is a call to action to protect the state’s waterways by addressing issues that
threaten water quality and, ultimately, our livelihoods.”

The Issues
● Outdated and/or Failing Wastewater Infrastructure – The “Win Back Our Water”
campaign was launched in response to the myriad issues caused by Florida’s
outdated and/or failing wastewater infrastructure. Florida’s wastewater and
stormwater infrastructure must continue to be modernized, septic systems connected
to sewer, and altered freshwater flows must be addressed. The recommendations of
the Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force must be accelerated, fully
implemented, expanded, and funded; and habitats essential to fisheries must be
identified and prioritized for protection and restoration, accounting for projected sea
level rise.

Prescription Drug Pollution – The campaign specifically addresses a major impact
of outdated wastewater infrastructure: the presence of pharmaceutical contaminants
in Florida sportfish. Recent Florida International University (FIU) studies funded by
BTT revealed alarming levels of pharmaceutical drugs in the blood and other tissues
of bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys, and in redfish throughout Florida
waters. These contaminants pose a significant threat to recreational fisheries, which
have an annual economic impact of $13.9 billion and directly supports over 120,000
jobs. A three-year study by FIU and BTT found an average of seven pharmaceuticals
per bonefish and 17 pharmaceuticals in a single fish. The subsequent redfish study
had similar results. The impacts of prescription contaminants can affect all aspects of
fish behavior, including reproduction and survival. BTT advocated for the recently
created Florida Innovative Wastewater Technology Grant Program to assist utilities in
upgrading their treatment systems to address pharmaceuticals.

Glyphosate Pollution – Another contaminant impacting Florida’s fisheries is
glyphosate, the main effective ingredient in many weedkillers. Glyphosate is used
extensively throughout Florida and other states for everything from agriculture to
aquatic weed control. A recent study by the nonprofit Ocean Research and
Conservations Association (ORCA) found glyphosate in every fish sampled from the
Indian River Lagoon. Glyphosate is impacting the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem
and is most likely present in Florida’s other estuaries and freshwater lakes and
rivers. Previous research showed that glyphosate caused significant health issues for
largemouth bass, and similar results are expected for marine fishes. BTT continues
to advocate for meaningful reductions in the application of weedkillers and for the
development of innovative methods for aquatic plant control.

The launch of the “Win Back Our Water” campaign follows ongoing harmful algal blooms, poor water quality, seagrass loss, fish kills, and contaminants such as pharmaceuticals in fish and other marine organisms that show that much more action is needed, especially considering the ways that a changing climate aggravates these problems. Florida must continue to make immediate and significant policy changes and long-term investments in water quality and habitat conservation to halt the accelerating decline and give ecosystems a chance at recovery, and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is spearheading a coordinated effort to accomplish just that.

For more information related to these issues and the steps that need to be taken toward
addressing them, please visit

About Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) is a science-based non-profit organization focused on
conserving bonefish, tarpon and permit—the species, their habitats and the larger fisheries they comprise. The organization, which pursues its mission through science-based conservation, education and advocacy, was founded in 1997 by grassroots volunteers seeking to reverse the declines they were witnessing in bonefish and tarpon populations in the Florida Keys. Today, BTT continues a comprehensive research and conservation program in the Keys and has expanded its work across the Caribbean basin to include staffed programs in The Bahamas, Belize and Mexico as well as grant-funded research projects in Cuba and other locations. Learn more at