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Entries in Vanishing Paradise (20)


Citizens Must Be Voice for Fish and Wildlife in Gulf Restoration

Less than five years after the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, BP has agreed to pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role. This stands in stark contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, and is great news not only for those who live along the Gulf Mexico, but for all of us who recognize the ecological, recreational, and economic value of this region to the nation.

Much of our seafood comes from there. Millions of us visit the five Gulf states annually to fish and enjoy other outdoor pursuits. And if you live in the Midwest or Great Plains, the waterfowl hunting that you enjoy annually is  dependent on healthy and abundant marshes and wetlands along the Gulf Coast, where 70 percent of waterfowl from the Central and Mississippi Flyways stopover or winter annually.

Now that we have an amount for what it likely the largest environmental settlement in history, it's important that plans and projects be implemented wisely and effectively. The federal RESTORE Act of 2012 will ensure that 80 percent of any Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties paid by BP and other companies responsible for the disaster goes to the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. That means each of the Gulf states will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to implement recovery plans, starting with Pot 1 for wildlife habitat restoration and improvement of water quality. This category also provides for “job creation” and “infrastructure projects,” which could allow expenditures that sound good but that won’t help the Gulf.

That's why it will be important for citizens along the Gulf to be a voice for fish and wildlife. They must tell their governors and state legislators that they want the money spent on projects such as restoring wetlands, sea grasses, and barrier islands, as well as ensuring adequate freshwater flows, which are important for sustaining healthy spawning and nursery habitat for fish and wintering areas for ducks and geese.

Vanishing Paradise looks forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure that the BP funds go to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.

And as this work begins, we should remember that we still don't know the true extent of the damage caused by an estimated 4.9 million gallons of oil pouring onto the ocean floor. Years and possibly even decades will be required to determine population level impacts to species.

What we do know is that an estimated one million birds died from exposure to the oil, as well as large numbers of dolphins and sea turtles. We also know that cleanup crews removed 106,465 tons of "oily material" from Gulf shorelines by the end of 2013. And BP reports that it already had spent $14 billion and 70 million personnel hours on cleanup and response by that time.

With direction as provided by the RESTORE Act and watchful oversight from those of us who want the best for Gulf Coast fish and wildlife, it now will spend an additional $18.7 billion.


BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Gulf Oil Spill

BP will pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, which polluted the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.

“Today‘s settlement moves the wildlife and habitat of the Gulf Coast forward on the road to recovery. It’s time to look ahead to the future and work toward getting real, on-the-ground restoration projects done," said Steve Bender, director of Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of more than 800 sportsman and outdoors groups, organizations and businesses working on Gulf Coast and Mississippi river Delta restoration.

“Because Congress passed the RESTORE Act in 2012, 80 percent of the money BP pays as a result of the Clean Water Act penalty will be returned to the Gulf Coast for much needed restoration and to improve the region’s long-term resiliency. Repairing the ongoing damage from the oil spill is also of utmost importance going forward, and the settlement dollars BP pays through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment will help the areas devastated by the spill – including habitat that supports world-class hunting and fishing."

The Gulf Coast region is an ecological and economic driver for the entire nation, and sportsmen and women care about ensuring this national treasure is restored for future generations to enjoy. With as many as 14 million waterfowl migrating to the Gulf’s warm shores annually, and salt and freshwater fishing unlike anywhere else on the planet, we must make sure this entire region – including the endangered Mississippi River Delta – is on the path forward to long-term health and recovery. We look forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure every dime of oil disaster money goes to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.”


Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved.

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.

A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.

Recent studies estimate 1,000,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.

Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.

A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.

A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

A recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay maximum fines under the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

VP has identified 19 projects from Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast that have the greatest potential to restore our coast. 


Why Bass Anglers Should Care about the Gulf of Mexico

In the June issue of B.A.S.S. Times, did you read my feature about restoration efforts for the Gulf of Mexico? If you didn’t, probably it was because you believe that what happens in the Gulf has little to do with bass fishing and bass fishermen.

Sadly, this “it’s not affecting my fishing so I’m not interested” is all too common among anglers on many issues related to the future of recreational fishing. Otherwise, with our numbers around 40 million, we’d be a far more formidable force than we are for protecting access and enhancing the nation’s fish and waterways.

Aside from that, bass fishing and the Gulf of Mexico are inextricably tied, from Tampa Bay in Florida to Galveston Bay in Texas. Ask anyone who has caught both largemouth and snook in Florida’s Crystal River or targeted bass, along with redfish, in the marshes around Venice, La. Or ask Mike McClelland, who focused on the Clear Creek area of Galveston Bay to finish second in an Elite Series event out of Orange, Texas, this past spring.

To reach his waters, McClelland ran 230 miles round trip, and thus was limited to fishing just 2 ½ hours each day.  “Two hours was the fastest I could make the run, and that was under perfect conditions,” he said.  “On Saturday, it took me two hours, 47 minutes to get there. It was just brutal.”

But worth it. McClelland checked in with 46 pounds, just 4 behind winner Chris Lane.

Clear Creek and other freshwater waterways that pour into Galveston Bay haven’t received nearly as much press for their bass fishing opportunities as those in coastal Florida and Louisiana. But they are there, pumping in vital fresh water and nutrients to feed the bay system.

“The Trinity and San Jacinto rivers are the two largest, but there are dozens of small and medium-size streams feeding the bay, and most of them hold freshwater fisheries,” said Shannon Tompkins, a veteran outdoors writer for the Houston Chronicle who has been fishing the area for more than 40 years. One of Tompkins’ favorites is the lower Trinity, which boasts the largest remaining cypress swamp in Texas, just a few miles upstream from where it enters Galveston Bay, as well as good fishing for bass, crappie, catfish, and other species.

Many of the tidal streams, he added, have been severely degraded over the years, as have other Gulf inshore waters, but still manage to be productive, although not to the level they once were or might be again.“Maintaining, enhancing, and restoring those waterways is crucial to the health of the bay system, as well as important to provide recreation, including freshwater fishing,” Tompkins said. Restoration efforts include projects aimed at improving and/or restoring freshwater systems throughout the Gulf.


Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation


On a recent trip to Galveston, officials with the Galveston Bay Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) showed me how conservation projects are bringing back marshes and sea grasses to benefit the entire ecosystem, from invertebrates and sea birds to flounder and bass.

And five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, if bass anglers will join with their salt cousins to demand that RESTORE Act of 2012 funds be spent on coastal restoration, all will benefit.  “The restoration of the Gulf environment is key to the longevity of recreational fishing in the region,” said Amanda Fuller, deputy director of NWF’s Gulf of Mexico Restoration Program.

The RESTORE Act mandates that 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties paid by BP and other companies responsible for the spill go to the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. That means each of the five coastal states will receive hundreds of millions of dollars for restoration projects. But Fuller and others worry that states might be tempted to use some of that money for projects that are more about job creation and infrastructure than about habitat restoration and improvement of water quality.

“That’s why it’s important for sportsmen to get involved,” she said, emphasizing that they should tell their governors to spend the money on restoring the Gulf environment.

And if that’s not enough to convince you that restoring and enhancing the Gulf of Mexico is in your best interests as an inland bass angler, consider this: If we don’t sustain the fisheries there, many of those salt anglers are going to start moving in on your waters.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Galveston Grass

Photo by Robert MontgomeryBeneficial marsh grasses like this will grow more plentiful as restoration projects enhance fish and wildlife habitat in Galveston Bay. With the Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise providing oversight and assistance, much of the work will be financed by the  RESTORE Act, using funds provided by BP to compensate for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years ago.


Restoring Galveston Bay

Activist Angler is down at Texas' Galveston Bay, looking at efforts to improve the wetlands, sea grasses, and oyster reefs.  Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise (VP), an initiative by the National Widlife Federation, are making certain lots of good work is being done with money from the RESTORE Act.

Following a tour of the projects, we found time to do a little fishing with Captain Chris Howard. Andy McDaniels, VP national sportsmen's outreach coordinator, is holding the redfish.