It's summer in southwest Florida and Lovers Key State Park is unusually deserted.
Although the parking lot maybe empty, the shore is packed...with dead sea life that is.
The moment we made our way onto the beach we could tell red tide had taken over. In fact, so much so that hundreds of dead horseshoe crabs and fish lay rotting on the beach.
Horseshoe crabs have a lifespan of 20-40 years, but they are no match for the harsh environment when red tide develops.
The State of Florida says that red tide is naturally occurring and develops annually. Others say that mass algae blooms are due to big sugar and the mismanagement of the water discharge from Lake Okeechobee ("Lake O"). And then there are those who say that these algae blooms are due to contaminated waste water from septic tanks and over-fertilization by local communities.
Some argue that instead of sending the water east and west from Lake O, the discharge of water should be sent to the south and into the Florida Everglades where it can slowly and naturally filter through the plant-life.
Maybe it's a combination of causes? And maybe it's time we eliminate the desire to heavily fertilize every square inch of our medians and lawns?
With the smell of rotting fish taking over, one can only tolerate the sight and smell at Lovers Key for so long before the irritants start to affect your throat and eyes.
Instead of spending time at the beach this summer, spend it inland and avoid the disappointment!
Travis is a photojournalist and portrait photographer based in southwest Florida. He’s been featured in the Immokalee Bulletin and his images have been featured in Florida Weekly. He’s also a member of National Press Photographers Association.