The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council voted to adopt a plan outlining ecological and financial recovery efforts for the Gulf region in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy” establishes generally the types of projects to be targeted by the council, including approaches that can help repair habitat degradation — occurring in the wake of the oil spill and in the decades preceding it — and ensure the health and sustainability of recreational fishing throughout the Gulf.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is working closely with sportfishing advocacy and conservation groups as well as state and federal agencies represented on the council to identify approaches that will benefit the region’s fish and wildlife habitat. In May the partnership convened a series of workshops in each of the five Gulf states including Texas to gather stakeholder input on projects important to recreational fishing interests. Projects identified during the workshops will be detailed in a report released this fall.
“Sportfishing is an enormous economic and cultural component of the Gulf region and sustains many of the coastal communities directly affected by the 2010 spill,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries, in a news release, “and this plan reflects many of the priorities identified by the Gulf recreational fishing community.
“The focus on the restoration of vital fisheries habitat like coastal wetlands, reefs and barrier islands and improving water quality in the initial plan is very important to sustaining recreational fishing in the region. Now is the time to move forward with identifying specific projects that will help accomplish these goals and ensure the projects are undertaken quickly and efficiently.”
Partners such as the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and International Game Fish Association help inform the partnership’s approach.
“This plan gives us a good starting point for sustaining and improving the Gulf’s vital sportfishing community,” said CCC President Jeff Angers, in the release. “Sportfishing interests throughout the Gulf look forward to continuing to work with the council to ensure we have healthy sportfishing ecosystems and economies.”
The council has indicated it is considering the formation of a citizens’ advisory panel to help maintain a high level of public engagement as it selects projects that will receive funding.
“The public must remain engaged with the council as the restoration process moves forward,” Macaluso said. “This advisory panel will give stakeholders like the sportfishing community a chance to participate in the Gulf’s recovery and contribute to building the long-term health of the region’s ecosystems. Moreover, it will build trust among stakeholders and the government agencies responsible for implementing the projects. Its importance cannot be overstated.”