Restoration Projects Bode Well for Gulf Fisheries
Early restoration efforts address priorities of sportfishing community,
dovetail with angler recommendations from TRCP workshops
BATON ROUGE, La. – Fisheries and angling-focused conservation projects just announced by the five Gulf Coast states as part of early restoration efforts from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are drawing praise from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The sportsmen’s group is currently engaging with members of the region’s sportfishing community to develop consensus-based recommendations for Gulf restoration.
Since April 30, Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have announced nearly $590 million in projects that will be funded via NRDA restoration monies from BP. Of that total, more than $418 million will help restore a host of vital fisheries habitats including barrier islands, oyster and other reefs, scallop beds, sea grass beds and marshes. Approximately $42 million will be invested in developing fisheries stock enhancement and research centers. A total $6.4 million in Florida, Mississippi and Texas will go toward refurbishing public boat launches, piers and fishing areas.
TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries Director Chris Macaluso said the types of habitat, research facility and fisheries infrastructure projects selected fall closely in line with the projects recommended by recreational anglers in the Gulf region.
“The recreational fishermen of the Gulf understand the need for healthy habitat now and into the future, and considerable overlap exists between what they want and the projects now being announced,” said Macaluso. “Not only will investments in barrier islands in Louisiana, oyster and other reefs in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas and sea grass beds in Florida help repair the ecological damage from the oil spill; they also will address long-term habitat degradation issues that have reduced the region’s fishing productivity and opportunities.
“The fact that the states recognize the need to establish science and research facilities – venues that can ascertain the health of current fish stocks in the Gulf, explore ways to enhance those stocks as appropriate and examine the impact of environmental factors on fish of various age classes – is tremendously encouraging,” Macaluso continued. “We look forward to continuing to provide input as these projects get under way, thereby helping ensure the long-term health and vitality of these important marine resources.”
The TRCP and its marine sportfishing partners are currently holding a series of workshops in Gulf states to develop and discuss Gulf-wide and state-specific project recommendations from the sportfishing community.
The first of the TRCP’s Gulf Recreational Fishing Restoration Workshops took place yesterday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Representatives from the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Florida Guides Association, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Foundation of Florida attended. Also participating were fisheries researchers and managers from NOAA, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida International University.
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Executive Director Aaron Adams attended the Florida workshop.
“Healthy habitats in the Gulf are essential to healthy fisheries,” said Adams. “It’s very encouraging to see that the Gulf states are emphasizing the restoration of critical fisheries habitat and that many of the projects important to healthy fisheries are already a priority. Hopefully this is an indication of how future oil spill restoration dollars will be spent as they become available.”
Subsequent TRCP workshops are scheduled in Orange Beach, Ala., on May 15; Gulfport, Miss., on May 16; Houston on May 20 and New Orleans on May 21.
The recommendations gathered during the workshops will be used by the TRCP to develop a report to be issued this summer. It will expand the TRCP’s 2011 study “Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery.”
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Katherine K. McKalip
Director of Media Relations
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership