The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its marine sportfishing partners will hold an innovative series of workshops across Gulf of Mexico states this spring to identify opportunities to restore and enhance recreational fishing through recovery efforts associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Gulf Recreational Fishing Restoration Workshops are a product of the TRCP’s collaboration with the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation and Coastal Conservation Association, along with charter fishermen, marina owners, state and federal fisheries managers and recreational anglers.
The workshops will take place in all five Gulf states, beginning in St. Petersburg, Fla., on May 1 then moving to Gulf Shores, Ala., on May 15; Gulfport, Miss., on May 16; Houston on May 20; and concluding in New Orleans on May 21.
Participants will hear from state and federal agencies working on the RESTORE Act Council and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process before developing a short list of specific projects, both state-specific and Gulf-wide. Each project will help repair and improve fisheries habitat; enhance and improve monitoring, data collection, research and management of Gulf fish stocks; increase angler confidence and access to the resource; and build resiliency in businesses and infrastructure that support recreational fishing.
“The Deepwater Horizon spill had a profound impact on sportfishing in the Gulf of Mexico,” said TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries Director Chris Macaluso, “not just directly to the fish and their habitat but also to the access fishermen have to the resource.
“Fishermen lost an entire spring and summer of fishing in 2010, and some areas remain oiled,” continued Macaluso, who lives in Baton Rouge. “These workshops are designed to give the fishing community a chance to make sound recommendations to state and federal agencies so we can work hand in hand toward helping the fisheries habitat and recreational fishing opportunities in the Gulf both recover and grow, both from the spill and from several decades of habitat loss.”
Each state in the Gulf was affected differently by the spill, so the workshops will not take a “one size fits all” approach, said Ken Haddad, retired head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and member of the ASA Government Affairs Committee.
“We know the needs of each state are going to differ, which is why we are going to the fishermen, retailers and managers in each of the five states to ask them what they need,” Haddad said. “At the same time, we know there are projects that can address deficiencies in fisheries habitat and data gathering on a Gulf-wide basis. These workshops will address both, and I am confident we will produce a report that will guide and improve the future of recreational fishing in this crucial region of our country.”
The recommendations gathered during the workshops will be used by the TRCP to develop a report to be issued this summer. It follows and enhances the broad ideas for sportfishing recovery in the Gulf discussed in the 2011 report “Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery.”
Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, chaired the committee that developed the 2011 report.
“The sportfishing community has made broad recommendations in the three years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster to help guide the thinking of state and federal resource managers working to help the Gulf recover,” Angers said. “Now, with the passage of the RESTORE Act last year and some money flowing through settlements, it’s time to work with the agencies again to identify the specific projects that will repair what recreational fishermen lost to the spill while solidifying the vital role sportfishing plays in the economy of the Gulf.”
A report recently issued by the ASA reveals that 3.6 million anglers enjoyed recreational saltwater fishing throughout the Gulf in 2011. The report also shows that saltwater sportfishing has more than $10 billion annual impact on the area’s economy.
“There is no denying the importance of recreational fishing to our state and region,” said David Cresson, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana. “Many of our local communities are financially sound today because of recreational fishing despite impacts from hurricanes and the 2010 spill. Still, that security is not guaranteed. With the monies coming to our region through RESTORE and other funds, the recreational fishing community can make sure our fishing ecosystems are healthy and our fishing economies stay strong.”
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.