The sportfishing industry applauds this week’s announcement by the Gulf of Mexico region’s states that projects of high importance to the recreational fishing community will be funded through early restoration monies from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“We are grateful to the governors, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees and BP for moving forward with recovery of the Gulf region through the latest round of early restoration funding,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Many of the projects announced this week demonstrate a clear acknowledgment and effort to address the priorities of the recreational fishing community.”
Nussman specifically highlighted projects in Florida and Louisiana that will focus on fisheries stock research enhancement; creation of artificial reefs in Florida and Texas; public boat ramps and other fishing access sites in Florida and Texas; and habitat restoration projects throughout the region. In total, over $400 million is available for funding these projects of high importance to the recreational fishing community.
“Recreational fishing is an important and integral part of the Gulf of Mexico region. Our community sustained substantial losses from the environmental damage and lost fishing opportunities as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Nussman noted. “To continue to aid in the recovery of the individuals and businesses dependent on recreational fishing, it is critical that recovery efforts focus on areas such as habitat restoration, fisheries research and improved fishing access.”
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 had a severe impact on the Gulf of Mexico region, including the businesses and individuals who depend on recreational fishing. According to ASA’s Sportfishing in America report, the 2.9 million anglers that fish in the Gulf of Mexico generate $7.3 billion in economic output annually, supporting over 66,000 jobs. In addition to causing significant ecological damage, the oil spill essentially shut down the 2010 fishing season in the Gulf resulting in tremendous economic damage to recreational fishing-dependent businesses.
Funding for projects through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment program comes from an initial $1 billion provided by BP for early restoration. Additional recovery dollars, the total amount of which is still to be determined pending an ongoing trial, will also be distributed as outlined in the RESTORE Act. In addition, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will distribute approximately $2.4 billion in grants through a settlement regarding criminal charges against BP.
Along with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Center for Coastal Conservation and the Coastal Conservation Association, ASA is convening a series of five workshops in the Gulf region focusing on further identifying the recreational fishing community’s priorities for Gulf restoration.
The purpose of the workshops is to gather input from individual anglers, charter boat operators and members of the sportfishing industry on how recovery dollars should be invested to aid the recreational fishing community’s continued recovery from the oil spill. The workshops aim to build off of a similar 2011 effort which produced the well-received Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery report.