In such difficult times, it can be nearly impossible to see a silver lining. But during my family’s recent trip to Key West, I was fortunate enough to witness a break in the clouds. Before the pandemic hit, Key West regularly saw as many as three cruise ships every day filled to the brim with tourists, accompanied by tons and tons of sewage and oil. The average cruise ship generates 150,000 gallons of sewage per week, and dumps most of it, after treatment, into the ocean. The oil and gas from the ships contaminate the air and water as well. But with COVID-19 restrictions curtailing the cruise ship industry, there have been no recent mass sewage or oil dumps in Key West.
Though I was aware of this fact before my visit, I didn’t think of the monumental impact that the lack of ships would have on the health of the water. I have never seen the waters of the Keys so clear. Not only that, I saw noticeably less trash in the water and in the mangroves when I was fishing. My fishing guide, Kyle Kelso, also said that the entire ecosystem there was cleaner than it has ever been since he’d become a guide, and that even the fish seemed healthier, too. I could perfectly see the fish I was casting for in the crystal water, and I loved watching them follow my fly as I stripped in my line.
We also saw more dolphins, turtles and rays than I have ever seen during one trip. It was incredible to see the place that I love the most in such great condition, and it shows me that we must protect our waters if we want it to stay that way. I believe that it is truly one beautiful thing that has come out of a very difficult year.
Shelby Berger is a junior at Flint Hill High School in Oakton, Virginia and a BTT Youth Ambassador. Click HERE to learn more about our Youth Ambassadors.