This area does not yet contain any content.
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Entries in Gulf of Mexico (28)

Monday
Aug252014

Sharks, Dead Zones, Oil Spills, and Other Realities

Remember the mayor in the movie “Jaws”? He didn’t care about the reality. He cared about the perception, even though people were dying.

Some in the fishing community are that way too, I think, based on my experience writing about issues that they don’t want to deal with.

Recently, I posted a piece about “dead zones” degrading our waters and how, unlike climate change, we can do something about the problem.  And, not surprisingly, someone complained, saying that the Gulf of Mexico “ain’t dead by a long shot, calling it so is a misrepresentation of the facts or just piss poor reporting on science.”

The only problem with that assessment is that I did NOT say the Gulf of Mexico is dead. I simply pointed out that a dead zone occurs there annually because of nutrient overload flowing down the Mississippi River.

Additionally, the “dead” area is not oxygen depleted from top to bottom, and I did not say that it is. The problem exists mostly in subsurface waters.

In 2013, I wrote a piece about how dolphins, turtles, and some species of fish are likely casualties of the Deep Horizon oil spill. I added, “No one is suggesting that the coastal states aren't open for tourism business or that the fishing isn't good, but some species still are being harmed.

Nevertheless, I received comments from angry anglers who disputed the science and accused me of harming the sport fishing economy of Louisiana by writing about such things. (By the way, check out this article, which details how aquatic life in the Gulf is thriving because of the oil industry.)

Years ago, I also was criticized by communities and chambers of commerce for reporting on Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) outbreaks at major impoundments.

For me, the bottom line is the welfare of resource, and, if there’s a problem, I want it solved or at least dealt with in a way that minimizes the damage done. I don’t know the motivation of those who don’t want to deal with the reality, but I have my suspicions.

Like the mayor of Amity, communities dependent on recreational fishing for economic prosperity don’t want to acknowledge events that might discourage tourism--- and don’t want anyone else to either.

Understanding what’s going on with anglers who criticize exposure of fisheries-related problems is a little more mysterious. But I suspect that it relates to the intense political divide in this country between the Left and the Right. Yes, I realize that not all anglers are conservative, but the majority are. And they bristle at the idea of anything “environmental,” which conjures up visions of Big Government intrusions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and on behalf of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

That division is one of the main reasons that such controversy exists regarding new proposals for the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

Yes, we needed EPA, ESA, and CWA for better stewardship of our wildlife, land, air, and waters. But over time, they’ve all been abused by environmentalists and bureaucrats to further political agendas and infringe on personal freedoms and property rights.

As an angler who prefers less intrusive government, I understand that. But as an ardent conservationist who knows the importance of science-based management of our natural resources, I’m not going to reject everything “environmental” because I don’t like what the word connotes.  

Thursday
Aug212014

Sky Isn't Falling, But Dead Zones Are Real

The Mississippi River dead zone is overloaded with nutrients from upstream sources. This photo shows the color change between the hypoxic (brown) and oxygen-rich (blue) waters. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Climate change occurs naturally. It always has, and it always will vary from day to day, week to week, season to season, year to year, decade to decade, and century to century. Possibly humans play a role in that change in some way, but no verifiable evidence supports that. Even if it did, we, as one nation, could do little to nothing about it because our contribution is miniscule compared to what’s happening in China, India, and the rest of the world.

The billions of dollars wasted on this sky-is-falling hysteria could be far better spent on providing food and clean water to the millions who need it.

By contrast, dead zones pose legitimate threats to our fisheries and oceans and could be minimized if we changed our ways.

LiveScience.com reports the following:

“Agricultural practices are the biggest culprit for dead zones in the United States and Europe. Rains wash excess fertilizer from farms into interior waterways, which eventually empty into the ocean. At the mouths of rivers, such as the Mississippi, the glut of phosphorous and nitrogen intended for human crops instead feeds marine phytoplankton.

“A phytoplanktonic surge leads to a boom in bacteria, which feed on the plankton and consume oxygen as part of their respiration. That leaves very little dissolved oxygen in the subsurface waters. Without oxygen, most marine life cannot survive.”

In the United States, the most notorious dead zone occurs each summer in the Gulf of Mexico, spreading out from the mouth of the Mississippi River. This year, it consumes more than 5,000 square miles, slightly smaller than last year. On average, it is estimated to cost $82 million annually in diminished tourism and fishing yield.

More than 150 dead zones have been identified in this country, most of them along the coasts. A few occur inland, notably the Great Lakes.

Some of them have been cleaned up through improved management of agricultural runoff and sewage. But as fertilizer and factory farming both increase, LiveScience.com warns, “the United States is creating dead zones faster than nature can recover.”

More than 400 dead zones have been identified worldwide, covering about 1 percent of the area along continental shelves.  But likely many more than that exist, since portions of Africa, South America, and Asia have yet to be studied.

Thursday
Jul172014

Feds Threaten Recreational Red Snapper Fishery

Recreational fishing for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico could become a thing of the past if anglers don't stand up and voice their outrage over a proposal by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. Even worse, if the council is not stopped, a precedent will be set and a model established for privatizing other sport fisheries in public waters.

This is the good ol' Catch Shares scheme that Activist Angler has been warning about for several years.

Here is what the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation has to say:

Federal management of Gulf red snapper is allowing only nine recreational fishing days in 2014 for a variety of reasons, including overly rigid statutory requirements, lawsuits and political influence by commercial and environmental organizations.

Rather than work to develop real solutions to the challenges facing recreational red snapper management, the Council is proposing to create further division and infighting among stakeholders by subdividing the recreational sector. The recreational fishing community has a small window of time to stop this troubling amendment from moving forward, but we must organize and act quickly.

And here's a joint statement from the sportfishing industry

The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council is currently moving ahead on a proposed amendment that will pit segments of the recreational fi shing community against each other without addressing the fundamental problems with recreational red snapper management.

Amendment 40, also known as “sector separation”, will divide the recreational angler’s 49% share of the snapper fishery roughly in half between private recreational anglers and charter-for-hire and head boat owners (even though many charter boat owners don’t support dividing the recreational catch).

Federal management of Gulf red snapper has been brought to such an abysmal point of only 9 recreational days in 2014 for a variety of reasons, including overly rigid statutory requirements, lawsuits and political influence by commercial and environmental organizations. Rather than work to develop real solutions to the challenges facing recreational red snapper management, the Council is proposing to create further division and infighting among stakeholders by subdividing the recreational sector. The recreational fishing community has a small window of time to stop this troubling amendment from moving forward, but we must mobilize and act quickly.

Call to Action – The next two Gulf Council meetings will decide the fate of our access to our fishery, and these meetings are our last chance to turn the tide. You need to be there for the day of the public hearing (TBD) and speak out against sector separation. Visit Keep America Fishing for updates on the day and time for the critical public testimony.

August 25 - 29, 2014

Beau Rivage

875 Beach Blvd.

Biloxi, MS 39530

 

October 20 - 24, 2014

Renaissance Battle House

26 N. Royal Street

Mobile, AL 36602

 

When it comes to Council decisions, personal testimony at the meetings can be the deciding factor. Attend the public hearings and speak against dividing the recreational component into two different sectors because:

• Dividing the recreational sector further by expanding the commercial model to half of the recreational sector isn’t a solution, it’s a recipe for more hardships with many charter boat owners and all private recreational anglers. The solution is not to divide the recreational community, but to collectively push for a system of management that is appropriate for the entire recreational sector.

• Despite what the commercial industry and environmental groups proclaim, recreational anglers (both private and for-hire components) have been “accountable." We abide by the regulations and do what we are asked to do. It’s the federal system of fisheries management that has been “unaccountable” and failed the recreational community as a whole.

This type of management philosophy, for all practical purposes, will effectively eliminate the red snapper recreational season in federal waters for the private angler. It will be nearly impossible for someone to trailer their boat to the Gulf or schedule vacation around what will likely be two or three days of snapper season.

NOAA Fisheries has failed to provide any credible analysis of the economic impacts of this course of management.

This isn’t just a threat for Gulf of Mexico red snapper anglers. If the red snapper recreational component in the Gulf is allowed to be divided and privatized, it will set a precedent and create a model for other popular sportfish fisheries in the Gulf and along a coast near you.

Monday
Apr282014

Tuna Possible Casualties from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

More bad news has surfaced about the long-term consequences from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists say the pollutant can cause severe defects in the developing hearts of bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

The 2010 spawning season coincided directly with the spill, meaning floating embryos were exposed to large surface slicks as oil gushed from the damaged wellhead.

“We know from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound that recently spawned fish are especially vulnerable to crude oil toxicity,” says Nat Scholz, head of the ecotoxicology program for NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “That spill taught us to pay close attention to the formation and function of the heart.”

Scientists add that affected fish likely would have died soon after hatching. Additionally, scientists know from previous research that survivors of exposure to crude oil can suffer subtle and transient changes in heart rhythm during development. These changes can permanently impair heart function and swimming ability at later life stages.

“This creates a potential for delayed mortality,” says one scientist. “Swimming is everything for these species.

And evidence that the threat is still out there appeared last June, when a 40,000-pound (20 tons) tar mat was discovered in the surf off Grand Terre Island. Considered hazardous to marine life, the mat reportedly was made of up 15 percent oil and 85 percent sand, shells, and water.

Also, a report last spring revealed the damage done to dolphins, sea turtles, and killifish, a common forage fish at the base of the food web.

“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths—particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin—are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”

All this is not to say that the fishing is not good along the coast and in the Gulf or that it will deteriorate in the next few years. The truth is that we just don’t know what the long-term consequences will be.

But evidence certainly suggests that fish and other wildlife immediately exposed to the crude oil were harmed and some species continue to be.  

That means we haven’t seen the end of this disaster. No one can legitimately declare that damages have been mitigated, or that our wildlife, marshes, barrier islands, and offshore habitat are “cleaned up.”

“It is crucial that impacted regions of the Gulf implement restoration projects that are based upon the best available science, and to spend every single dime of the penalty money from the spill wisely,” says NWF. “That is our priority. The Vanishing Paradise campaign is focused on these goals as we continue our work in all five of the Gulf states. In Louisiana, that means two things:

  • Supporting the implementation of the Louisiana State Master Plan
  • Ensuring the integrity of the financial mechanisms that fill the gaps between Plan-Funding- and Restoration

“The moral of the story is that the Gulf is still hurting, four years after the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Recovery and restoration are far from complete.”

Tuesday
Feb182014

Exotics Take a Bite Out of Wetlands

Nutria photo from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website.

Most anglers know that Asian carp are harming this nation’s fisheries, from the Upper Midwest down to the Gulf Coast and eastward through the Ohio River watershed.

What many do not realize, however, is that other exotics also are doing severe damage. They don’t receive as much publicity because their range is more limited.

But in Louisiana, the nutria, a large rodent, is devouring the wetlands, destroying spawning and nursery habitat for a multitude of important sport fisheries. In fact, the state estimates that damage at any given time is about 46,000 acres, as about 5 million of the web-footed animals with large, orange teeth feed on the roots and stalks of aquatic plants.

Additionally, the giant apple snail also is taking a giant bite out of the wetlands. They’ve been banned from the state since 2012, but that was too late to keep them from becoming a destructive force, courtesy of irresponsible hobbyists who dumped their aquariums into waterways.

“They eat a ton of plant material, anything they can get their tiny little mouths on,” said Michael Massimi of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. “You are converting a water body from one dominated by plants to one dominated by algae.”

Asian carp, tiger prawns, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia also are among the exotic species doing damage to Louisiana’s coastal system.

Some limited good news is that the state’s nutria control plan, implemented in 2002, has lessened the impact of these furbearers, which were imported during the 1930s and promoted as a way to combat water hyacinth and other invasive plants during the 1940s.

Giant apple snails also are gobbling up wetlands.

Still the cumulative effect of these invaders is significant for an ecosystem already under siege. First came decades of habitat degradation and mismanagement, most of it originating from development and water diversions. These actions accelerated erosion and saltwater intrusion, which are crumbling away the equivalent of a football field every hour.

Then came the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath, which added to the peril of an ecosystem that is critical for sustaining the food web of the Gulf of Mexico.

Fortunately, the spill also provided impetus for passage of the RESTORE Act, which provides a rare opportunity to restore and enhance the Delta and its wetlands. Guiding that restoration is a multi-state, multi-agency group known as the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

And a coalition known as Vanishing Paradise is working to make sure that Council members remember the importance of habitat restoration, which can drive and support economic recovery.

“The people, business, communities, and economy of this region are undeniably reliant upon a healthy and productive Gulf, and ecosystem restoration should be the top priority,” said spokesman Ben Weber.

Sadly, passing legislation and creating coalitions will do little to counter the damage already being done by established exotic species, including the nutria and giant apple snail.

But something could be done to lessen the likelihood of future harmful invasions in Louisiana’s marshes and wetlands, as well as other waterways nationwide. Congress needs to strengthen the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import and trade of harmful species.

Here is how bad the problem is: Since the act’s implementation more than a century ago, only about 40 animal groups have been prohibited, and that usually occurred long after they were imported, escaped into the wild, and started doing damage.

By modernizing the Lacey Act, Congress could empower the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to first assess the potential risks associated with a species proposed for import before deciding whether to allow or prohibit its trade in the United States. The ineffectiveness of the current law is easily evidenced by Burmese pythons in the Everglades, Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes, and giant apple snails joining nutria in gobbling up Louisiana’s wetlands.