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Entries in oil spill (15)

Thursday
Jun062013

Rodent Invader Adds to Decline of Delta Wetlands

Photo from Greg Lasley Nature Photography

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 another exotic also is doing severe damage. It doesn’t receive as much publicity because its range is more limited.

But down 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.

The good news is that damage has been lessened since Louisiana implemented a nutria control plan in 2002.

Still, this is one more blow to the Mississippi Delta, which already is under siege from decades of habitat degradation and mismanagement, most of it originating from development and water diversions. As a result, erosion and saltwater intrusion are crumbling away the equivalent of a football field every hour.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath 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 in drafting and finagling the Council’s comprehensive restoration plan,” said spokesman Ben Weber.

To learn more about Vanishing Paradise and its efforts, go here.

And to learn more about the nutria in Louisiana, go here.

Friday
Apr122013

Fish, Dolphins, Turtles Continue as Casualties of Oil Spill

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, consequences for fish and wildlife weren’t nearly as disastrous in the Gulf of Mexico as I feared they would be.  Still, they weren’t good.

And they still aren’t. 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.

“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation. “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.”

Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster looks at how different species of wildlife across the northern Gulf are faring in the wake of the oil disaster:

  • Dolphin deaths in the area affected by oil have remained above average every month since just before the spill began. Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called the dolphin die-off “unprecedented”—a year ago. While NOAA is keeping many elements of its dolphin research confidential pending the conclusion of the ongoing trial, the agency has ruled out the most common causes of previous dolphin die-offs.
  • More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012—the last date for which information is available. For comparison, on average about 240 sea turtles are stranded annually.
  • A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.
  • Scientists found that the oil disaster affected the cellular function of the killifish, a common baitfish at the base of the food web. A recent laboratory study found that oil exposure can also harm the development of larger fish such as mahi mahi. 

“The oil disaster highlighted the gaps in our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ian MacDonald, professor of Oceanography at Florida State University.

“What frustrates me is how little has changed over the past three years. In many cases, funding for critical research has even been even been cut, limiting our understanding of the disaster’s impacts. For example, we know that some important coral communities were damaged, but funding for the necessary follow up has not been there.”

The report’s release comes as BP and the other companies responsible for the disaster are on trial in federal court for violations of multiple environmental laws. The report describes different sources of restoration funding resulting from the disaster and provides initial suggestions for how this money can be used to improve the outlook for the species discussed in the report.

“Despite the public relations blitz by BP, this spill is not over,” said David Muth, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program.

 “In 2012 six million pounds of tar mat and contaminated material from the BP spill were cleaned up from Louisiana’s coast. Justice will only be served when BP and its co-defendants pay to restore the wildlife and habitats of the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Other oil disasters have taken years to reveal their full effects, and often recovery remains incomplete after decades. To date, the disaster response has focused on removing the visible oil, but little has been done to tackle the region’s long-standing habitat degradation and water quality problems—issues that were exacerbated by the oil disaster.

“I’ve always considered myself truly fortunate to make a living fishing these waters,” said Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, a lodge and charter boat operation in Buras, Louisiana. “Right now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this ecosystem back on its feet, but we need to make sure we use the money from BP’s penalties on projects that will improve the health of the Gulf in the long run. That’s the best way to restore our economy, and it is the best way to make sure our children have the opportunity to enjoy this region as we have for decades.”

Friday
Nov162012

BP Funds to Benefit Gulf of Mexico Fish and Wildlife

About $2.4 billion of BP’s recent settlement agreement of $4.5 billion will go to benefit fish and wildlife habitats along the Gulf Coast. Those funds will be funneled through the National Fish And Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), an independent non-profit conservation groups chartered by Congress in 1984.

"Ducks Unlimited applauds the decision to direct a significant portion of the settlement funds to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation," DU CEO Dale Hall said.

"NFWF is the appropriate organization to manage these funds and determine how they can best be used to benefit Gulf Coast fish and wildlife and the people who depend on these resources for their livelihood and recreation. NFWF's role in managing these funds is good news for the people and wildlife of the Gulf Coast."

Under this agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, BP pled guilty to several criminal charges for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which discharged an estimated 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” said Bob Dudley, BP’s Group Chief Executive.

“From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

The $4.5 billion settlement does not resolve penalties that could result from violations of the Clean Water Act. These penalties could range as high as $20 million if BP is found guilty of gross negligence.

To learn more, check out Ducks Unlimited and this BP press release.

Friday
Mar092012

Senate Approves Amendment to Help Restore Gulf

 

Ducks Unlimited photo

Great news! With U.S. Senate approval of an amendment, a huge second step has been taken to ensure that funds from the Clean Water Act and other penalties assessed following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are used to pay for economic and environmental restoration projects in Gulf Coast states. (See Feb. 16 post: Your Help Needed to Ensure Gulf, Delta Restoration.)

In a bipartisan effort, the Senate passed the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act as an amendment to the Senate transportation bill. Previously, the House gave voice vote approval of a similar amendment.

"It is so good to see that an outstanding bipartisan boost for conservation can actually occur in this Congress, reaffirming the importance of healthy fish and wildlife resources across this nation,” said Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.

“Senators Nelson, Landrieu, Shelby, and Baucus showed great leadership and stewardship in championing this legislation.  Every one of the more than 500,000 B.A.S.S. members should be celebrating this historic vote for fishing - for habitat restoration, access, infrastructure improvements, and especially for restoration of the ravaged Gulf of Mexico."

The Senate amendment also includes a much needed increase in funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides money to federal, state, and local authorities for acquisition of land and water to benefit conservation and recreation.

“This provision would double current funding levels for the fund to $700 for each of the next two years and reauthorize it until 2022, for a total of $1.4 billion,” the American Sportfishing Association said.

Taken together, if the transportation bill with the RESTORE amendment attached should win final passage, these two doses of conservation funding would represent, by some estimates, the largest boost in conservation funding in American history.”

To learn more, read these stories:

Keep America Fishing.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Vanishing Paradise.

House approves.

Thursday
Feb162012

Your Help Needed to Ensure Gulf, Delta Restoration

In two letters to Congress, more than 650 fishing, hunting, and outdoor sporting businesses and organizations have stepped up to help restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf Coast.

Have you?

If not, please do it now. Click here to tell your senators and representatives to support the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act, to ensure that fines paid by BP and other companies go where it is supposed to go --- to restoration.

Without passage of the act, greedy politicians could divert the money to the general fund, where it will disappear into a black hole of waste and political favors.

“The delta has suffered years of damage and is being lost at an alarming rate—a football field of land disappears every hour,” said Land Tawney of Vanishing Paradise (VP).

“The oil spill added insult to injury for this area and the entire Gulf region. Now is the time for Congress to pass the RESTORE Act, to ensure that oil spill fines reach the Gulf, where the latest round of damage was done.”

VP reports that a bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.

“Restoring the Gulf and the Mississippi River Delta is an important issue for all sportsmen,” said Mike Iaconelli, 2003 Bassmasters Classic champion.

“Those of us who hunt or fish need to step up and show we care about this issue. The disappearing Mississippi River Delta is not a problem we can’t fix, and Congress has a chance to do what’s right for the Gulf Coast. Now is the time for them to take action.”