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Entries in Gulf of Mexico (31)

Wednesday
Sep172014

Rubio Fisheries Bill Praised by Saltwater Community

Representatives of the nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers and the industries they support, which collectively have a $70 billion annual economic impact, commended Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his work on the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, introduced today.

The bill creates a strong base to ensure that the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities are addressed during reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, the overarching law managing the nation’s saltwater fisheries.

“Sen. Rubio worked closely with our community to understand our needs and concerns,” noted Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We know it will take a bi-partisan commitment to enact this into law, and we have been equally impressed with the work of Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to include our priorities in his draft Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act reauthorization.”

Rubio said, “Florida’s fisheries deeply impact the economic well-being of our state, as well as many Floridians whose way of life depends on them. But our fisheries are also a national treasure that feed Americans across the country, provide jobs across the food industry chain, and have become a favorite pastime for millions who provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies.

 “This legislation ensures necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, I know there is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to prioritize reauthorization of the MSA in the next Congress.”

Recreational anglers’ primary priorities are identified in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”  The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, identifies six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision, including adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.

“We are pleased to see many of the Morris-Deal priorities addressed in Sen. Rubio’s legislation, reflecting his commitment to give long overdue attention to improving recreational fisheries management,” said Angers.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with Sen. Rubio and Sen. Begich to incorporate several other priorities in the final version of any legislation, including a fix for the broken management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf.”

Contributors to the work of the Commission include American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Billfish Foundation

Thursday
Sep112014

Recreational Fishing Losses From Deepwater Horizon Estimated at $585 Million

Recreational angling took a hit of up to $585 million from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That’s the estimated value of lost fishing opportunities according to a new University of Florida study.

Researchers studied three types of anglers: those who fished from shore, those who piloted private or rental boats offshore, and those who paid for guide boats to take them fishing. They assigned an economic value for each of the three types of trips.

The researchers found that anglers fishing from shore and those that hire fishing guides lost the most, an average of $29.65 and $34.27 per trip, perhaps because they are less able to change their fishing conditions. Those who pilot their own boats lost the least at $2.23 per trip.

Researchers took data collected from interviews with saltwater anglers by NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program, which regularly surveys anglers on their catch. Each year approximately 40 million trips are taken in the U.S. Southeast.

They used about 70,000 fishing trips each year for five years, 2006 to 2010, to learn how each type of anglers changed fishing trips to avoid closures in federal fisheries following the oil spill. They arrived at the $585 million figure by multiplying the per-trip losses for each type of trip by the number of affected fishing trips, which was assumed to be for the year as if anglers could re-plan their trips to avoid closures, Larkin said.

The UF study is the first research study to estimate recreational fishing losses following such a large oil spill.

After a disaster such as an oil spill, trustees -- which could include federal, state or tribal authorities -- often attempt to secure financial compensation from those responsible.

In the Gulf oil spill, those monies would not go back to individual fishermen, but instead might fund ecosystem improvements or to stock more fish in the Gulf on the fishermen’s behalf, said UF food and resource economics professor Sherry Larkin.

In December 2012, BP agreed to pay $2.3 billion to commercial fishermen, seafood boat captains and crew, seafood vessel owners and oyster leaseholders, but trustees have yet to seek compensation on behalf of recreational fishermen.

“These are sizable losses borne by recreational users of publicly owned resources,” said Larkin, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. Because the oil spill affected thousands of square miles of fisheries, trustees could try to compensate for everyone who uses the Gulf in the future, Larkin said.

The study covers fishing areas off the coasts of Louisiana to Florida and up to North Carolina.

In Florida, following the oil spill, fishermen who normally might have gone to Pensacola, for example, would either not fish or might instead head to the Atlantic Coast, Larkin said.

UF/IFAS researchers used an economic formula that uses the cost of accessing a recreational activity, primarily travel costs, to assess the activity’s value.

At 206 million gallons, the Deepwater Horizon was the largest marine oil spill in history. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, trustees can recover public losses from responsible parties. Larkin said she does not know if the UF study will ever be used in legal cases against BP, Deepwater Horizon or other potentially responsible parties.

The study authors emphasize their model only depicts losses for recreational fishermen, not commercial fishermen, hotels, restaurants, retail establishments that lost money after the BP oil spill. It also doesn’t measure ecosystem losses.

The study appeared online in July in the Journal of Environmental Management.

Friday
Sep052014

Judge Rules BP Grossly Negligent in Gulf Oil Spill

BP could be fined the largest penalty ever levied under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

That’s because U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier recently ruled that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico occurred because of the company’s gross negligence, meaning BP could be liable for as much as $18 billion in pollution fines.

 That amount is far more than the $3.5 billion that the company had set aside and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “would easily exceed the biggest previous fine under the statute.”

That amount was based on BP’s belief that the court would rule the company liable for simple negligence. But a verdict of gross negligence means a fine of as much as $4,300 for each barrel of crude oil spilled in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The judge could decide on lower penalties per barrel, but still the amount is likely to surpass the previous CWA record of $1 billion paid by Transocean Ltd, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

“More than four years after the BP oil disaster, today’s ruling is a vital step towards restoring important waterfowl and fishing habitat for the next generation of sportsmen and women,” said Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of about 800 hunting and fishing organizations advocating for restoration of the Mississippi River Delta and the gulf.

“The oil spill tarnished hundreds of miles of coastline and marshes important to fresh and saltwater fishing and waterfowling. The areas most damaged by the spill cannot wait any longer for restoration to begin. Recreational fishing is a critical component of the Gulf economy generating $8 billion annually.

“In Louisiana alone, some 10 million ducks, geese and other waterfowl winter along the coast and depend on healthy marshes. We must invest penalty monies in real restoration projects that clean up and restore the waters and coastal habitat that are the backbone of the Gulf region’s economy.”

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.