Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries · 2019-04-30 · enforcement and science programs and helped...
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 1 Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries · 2019-04-30 · enforcement and science programs and helped build public docks, piers and boat launches. The FDED Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Recreational saltwater fishing is intrinsically linked tothe culture and economy of the Gulf of Mexico region.More than 3.5 million saltwater anglers recreate each
year throughout the five Gulf States, providing an overalleconomic benefit of more than $10 billion dollars for thearea’s communities, businesses and residents.
Sportsmen are the original conservationists. Anglers andhunters have long been at the forefront of habitatconservation and better wildlife and fisheries science andmanagement in America. For more than 75 years, huntersand anglers have paid excise taxes on equipment to fund theWildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program, which hasprovided more than $13 billion in grants to state fish andwildlife agencies since 1939. Those funds have helpedacquire and restore more than 100,000 acres of fish andwildlife habitat in America while providing essentialoperating funds for state wildlife and fisheries managementagencies. Fishing and hunting licenses have also helped payfor habitat restoration efforts, expanded education,enforcement and science programs and helped build publicdocks, piers and boat launches.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill decimated the Gulf’srecreational fishing community. Fishing was closed in nearly40 percent of the Gulf’s waters while oil spewed uncheckedfor 87 days from late April until July as the largestenvironmental disaster in American history unfolded.Offshore grass mats and coral reefs were fouled, and oilwashed ashore along barrier islands, bays, marshes andbeaches across the northern Gulf. Due to periodic heavyoiling, many areas remained closed to fishing for more thantwo years after the spill.
As the damaged drill pipe gushed week after week, Gulfresidents, business owners and fishermen wondered if thedisaster would ever end. Some questioned if it was possiblefor the habitat, fish and affected communities to fully recover. Recreational fishing in the Gulf has rebounded in the three-plus years since the Deepwater Horizon spill. Marinas are fulland public piers are busy. Beaches have reopened andextensive seafood testing has demonstrated the fish are safeto eat. However, many uncertainties about the long-termhealth of the Gulf’s fisheries and habitat remain.
The sheer size and scale of the 2010 spill led to anunprecedented response to help the Gulf’s ecosystems and
economy recover. That response also provides anopportunity to address long-term habitat loss, poor waterquality and a lack of complete science and data on fish andfishing in the Gulf, all exacerbated by the spill. Funds in theform of settlements for damages, the Natural ResourceDamage Assessment, and civil penalties through theRESTORE Act all will work together to identify and constructprojects and pay for programs to repair the damages.Sportsmen and conservation groups will have to work closelywith federal, state and local officials to ensure funds arebeing appropriately managed and wisely invested.
The following report details a host of projects and initiativesrecommended by recreational anglers, charter captains,conservation groups, fisheries scientists, state and federalresource managers, business owners and community leadersto help the Gulf’s recreational fishery recover from the spilland achieve long-term sustainability. The recommendationswere gathered during workshops conducted in each Gulfstate in May 2013 by the Theodore Roosevelt ConservationPartnership and sportfishing partners the CoastalConservation Association, Center for Coastal Conservationand the American Sportfishing Association.
The projects and initiatives fall into three broad categories:n habitat restoration and improvement
n improved fishery monitoring, data collection,research and management
n Recreational fishing business impacts and restorationof angler interest, confidence and access
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Photo Credit: Dr. Greg Stunz
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Some of the specific project recommendations to improveand restore habitat include the expansion and restoration ofoyster reefs, marshes, sea grasses, mangroves, scallops,corals, barrier islands and artificial reefs; expanding offshorereefing opportunities with oil and gas platforms; increasingthe beneficial use of dredge spoil; improving water quality bylimiting nutrients coming from rivers and streams; and thecomprehensive restoration of the Mississippi River Delta.
Projects to improve fishery monitoring, data collection,research and management include examining existing on-bottom structures, increasing fisheries dependent andindependent data collection, construction and long-termfunding for fisheries stock enhancement centers, expandingand sustaining fish tagging programs, expanding anglereducation programs, increasing the use and studying theeffects of using barotrauma reduction devices and long-termmonitoring of the efficacy of habitat restoration andexpansion projects.
Recommended efforts to address impacts to recreationalfishing businesses and restore angler interest, confidenceand access include maintenance and expansion of existingpublic boat launches, piers and beach parking areas;identifying areas in need of new launches and piers; youthand women’s fishing tournaments and seminars; using betterscience for more timely setting of season dates; andadvertising campaigns promoting seafood safety and fishingopportunities.
These recommended projects and initiatives represent aninvestment in making the Gulf’s ecosystems healthy, inexpanding fisheries science and better management, and inthe facilities that provide recreational fishing opportunitiesthat will help sustain and increase economic activity acrossthe region. They also will help sustain a culture vital to thequality of life across the Gulf and increase awareness of theneed to conserve and protect this national treasure forgenerations to come.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 5
economic impact of Gulf of Mexico saltwater Fishing by state in 2011 According to the American Sportfishing Association’s Sportfishing in America report released in January 2013.
state number of anglers Fishing days Jobs Total economic Federal, state &impact local Tax Revenue
*Florida statistics include activity on the Atlantic Coast.
Photo Credit: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries:Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability
introductionRecreational saltwater fishing is an integral part of the Gulf
Coast. From the flats and mangrove forests of the Florida
Keys to the east, through the marshes, bayous, barrier islands
and reefs of the northern and central Gulf, to the expansive
bays and grass flats of South Texas, anglers travel anywhere
from a few miles to a few thousand miles to enjoy some of
the world’s best fishing. The economies and cultures of many
Gulf Coast communities depend on recreational angling.
State and federal agencies and a host of nongovernmental
conservation organizations have dedicated countless hours
and millions of dollars to ensuring the Gulf’s recreational
fishery remains healthy and sustainable.
According to the American Sportfishing Association, in 2011more than 3.5 million people participated in saltwaterrecreational fishing in the Gulf region, bringing to the areamore than $10 billion in economic activity.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf’srecreational fishermen and the businesses and communitiesthat support them. The 11 men who lost their lives when therig exploded on April 20 about 50 miles south of Venice, La.,were all residents of the Gulf, a region where tens ofthousands, many of them avid fishermen, make their living inthe petroleum industry. The estimated 4.2 million barrels ofoil flowed unchecked for nearly 90 days from the damagedpipe into offshore waters – and eventually onto beaches,barrier islands and marshes across the Northern Gulf. Itdestroyed what was shaping up to be another incrediblespring and summer of fishing. The uncertainty about whenthe flow would be stopped, the extent of the direct damage to
fish and habitat and the long-term impacts to the health ofthe Gulf had many fishermen, marina owners, boat andtackle dealers, charter captains and community leaderswondering if life would ever be the same. More than 1,000miles of coastline were oiled in all, and approximately 40percent of the Gulf was closed to fishing while the oil flowed.More than three years later, some popular fishing areas alongthe Northern Gulf are still closed periodically, as oil continuesto foul beaches and wetlands.
The 2010 spill forced Gulf fishermen, scientists, communityand industry leaders, and business owners to take a hardlook at the overall condition of the region’s ecosystems andeconomy. The spill, while devastating, was not the only threatto the sustainability – both short term and long term – of theregion’s vital fisheries. Loss of critical habitats, especiallymarshes, barrier islands, grass beds, mangroves and natural
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3. recreational fishing business impacts and restoration of angler interest, confidence and access
These general “guideposts” for project types wereestablished in a 2011 report issued by the TheodoreRoosevelt Conservation Partnership titled Gulf Spill
Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for
That report was comprised of therecommendations made duringthree workshops conducted bythe TRCP, Coastal ConservationAssociation, AmericanSportfishing Association andCenter for Coastal Conservationin Pensacola, Fla.; Gulfport,Miss.; and New Orleans, La.Those workshops laid thegroundwork for the largereffort conducted throughoutthe spring and summer of2013, sponsored by the WaltonFamily Foundation, which led to the more extensiveand specific project recommendations listed in this report.
The Gulf Restoration WorkshopsSimilar to 2011, the TRCP, along with its sportfishingpartners the CCA, ASA and the CCC, worked closely toorganize and host workshops across the Gulf to gatherinformation and discuss project recommendations from therecreational fishing community in May of 2013. The fiveworkshops were conducted at the following Gulf Coast cities:
n St. Petersburg, Fla.
n Orange Beach, Ala.
n Gulfport, Miss.
n New Orleans, La.
n Houston, Texas
A steering committee of CCA Louisiana Executive DirectorDavid Cresson, CCC President Jeff Angers, ASARepresentatives Ken Haddad and George Cooper, the TRCPSenior Director of Policy Initiatives and CommunicationsGeoff Mullins and the TRCP Center for Marine FisheriesDirector Chris Macaluso, organized the workshops andinvited attendees from a range of sportfishing interests.
Representatives from a host of conservation organizations,research institutions, universities, and state and federalagencies, as well as individual fishing tackle retailers, chartercaptains and avid anglers attended the workshops.Participants included CCA Texas, CCA Louisiana, CCAAlabama, CCA Florida, CCA Mississippi, Bonefish & TarponTrust, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, The Nature Conservancy,Snook and Gamefish Foundation, Building ConservationTrust, National Wildlife Federation, Louisiana WildlifeFederation, Florida Wildlife Foundation, Restore or Retreat,Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
reefs, threatened fish populations and quality access forrecreational anglers and were exacerbated by the spill.Incomplete scientific data about fish populations and theirhabitat made determination of damages from the spilldifficult and led to indecisiveness about how to manage someof the Gulf’s most prized recreational and commercialspecies. Poor water quality had been leading to declines incritical near-shore and offshore habitat. Facilities thatsupport fishing activity like boat launches, docks, piers andparks often were overcrowded and in disrepair and coastalcommunities were becoming more vulnerable to sea levelrise and the impacts of hurricanes. Changes in climate andwater temperature also were causing shifts in fishpopulations, migration patterns and forage bases.
Funds heading to the Gulf to help repair the ecosystems andeconomies damaged by the spill also provide opportunitiesto address long-term needs of the region’s ecosystems andcommunities. Because recreational fishing plays such anenormous role in the area’s culture and economy, healthyfisheries habitat, sound science and management, and accessto quality fishing should be a top priority for investment ofspill recovery dollars. Recreational fishermen, fisheriesscientists and managers, and habitat conservationistsrecommend investing in the types of projects and programssuggested in this report to help ensure a healthy recreationalfishing culture and economy for generations to come.
The ReportThe following pages outline a host of project and initiativerecommendations that will help ensure the needs of therecreational fishing community are addressed as federal,state and local authorities work to determine how and wherespill recovery funds will be spent. Funds will be coming froma number of different sources, primarily through the ongoingNatural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), civilpenalties through the RESTORE Act, and settlements beingdisbursed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation(NFWF). All of these funds have guidelines regarding thetypes of projects that qualify for funding. Based onrecommendations from state and federal agencies workingon both the Restore Council and NRDA, the projects andinitiatives recommended in this report are not presentedwith a suggestion of a particular funding source. Some of theinitiatives may not even qualify for any of the spill recoveryfunds, but they are still vital to the health of the Gulf andneed to be a part of any comprehensive restoration effort. Allrecommendations in this report are made with theexpectation that habitat, water quality, data gatheringprocesses and infrastructure improvements will undergolong-term monitoring to ensure they accomplish intendedgoals.
This report lists a variety of Gulf-wide projects as well asstate-specific efforts that fall into three general project types:
1. habitat restoration and improvement
2. improved fishery monitoring, data collection, research and management
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, AlabamaDepartment of Conservation Marine Resources Division,Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Cityof Orange Beach, Louisiana Department of Wildlife andFisheries, Port of Fourchon, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory,Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Harte ResearchInstitute, Mote Marine Laboratory, Mississippi StateUniversity, Auburn University, Academy Sports and Outdoors,Big Rock Sports, Captain Anderson’s Marina and FloridaGuides Association.
Each workshop welcomed 15 to 30 participants and beganwith a presentation and discussion of the state of the Gulf inthe wake of the spill, as well as the Restore Council, NRDAand NFWF processes and projects already proposed. Thatwas followed by project proposals based on the threeguideposts established in 2011. Participants were asked tosuggest projects and initiatives on both a Gulf-wide andstate-based basis. Additional meetings with state, federal andlocal officials, anglers, charter captains, business owners andothers from across the Gulf contributed to the projects listedin this report as well. While the intent of the projectsrecommended is to restore and sustain recreational fishing,the positive results of rebuilding habitat, increasing scientificcapacity and improving education and infrastructure willbenefit the Gulf region and the entire country.
Gulf-wide habitat Restoration andimprovementThe primary focus of the five workshops conducted by theTRCP and its partners was habitat restoration andimprovement. Vital fisheries habitat across the Gulf,including corals, sea grasses, marshes, oyster reefs, andbeaches and barrier islands, were negatively affected by theDeepwater Horizon spill and the cleanup efforts. In addition,a number of long-term habitat loss issues that were aconcern before the spill and magnified by the spill, like poorwater quality and pollution runoff, development of coastalwetlands, the extensive loss of nursery grounds in theMississippi River Delta, and the loss of historic coral reefs,continue to pose a threat to sustainability of fisheriesthroughout the Gulf. Focusing investment of oil spill recoverydollars on rehabilitating habitat damaged by the spill, as well
as areas damaged and lost over the last several decades fromother factors, is essential to the ultimate viability of Gulffisheries.
Restoration of Coastal Marshes and historic RidgesCoastal freshwater, brackish and salt marshes are essentialnursery grounds for juvenile and adult sportfish as well asforage species like crabs, mullet, menhaden, shrimp,pilchards, Gulf killifish and many others. The loss of thesevital areas, through subsidence and erosion, changes inhydrology, lack of sediment input, poor water quality,dredging and development, is arguably the biggest threat tothe health and sustainability of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.Especially in Louisiana, coastal wetlands experienced heavyoiling from the 2010 spill, exacerbating an already alarmingcoastal wetlands loss rate of about 16-25 square miles ofland per year.
Historic coastal ridges also play a vital role in helpingstabilize coastal wetlands and separate the saltier waters ofthe Gulf from brackish and freshwater marshes. These ridgeshave been damaged by hurricanes, lack of sediment inputand the dredging of canals and shipping channels. Identifyingand restoring historic ridges and land bridges is essential tothe sustainability of coastal estuaries.
The extensive loss of marsh also threatens the coastalcommunities that support recreational fishing. Many naturalbuffers and much of the ability of the ecosystem to absorbstorm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes have beenlost. Restoring these vital nursery and wintering grounds, aswell as providing essential protection for coastalcommunities, should be a primary focus for Gulf restorationefforts.
Photo Credit: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
New marsh created with dredged sediments in Barataria Bay, La.
Several relatively small-scale marsh restoration projects havebeen conducted over the last three decades across the Gulf,primarily using dredges to suction sediment from nearbyopen water areas and pumping that sediment into areaswhere marsh has been severely damaged by erosion.
Photo Credit: TRCP
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Unfortunately, finding sediment sources and transporting thesediment via pipeline or barge is expensive, and the sourcesare limited. Projects have usually been 1,000 acres or less,and, while very important in the short term, in many casesthey have had a relatively small impact on the sustainabilityof the overall coastal landscape. Expanding the size andnumber of marsh restoration and creation projects acrossthe Gulf will help conserve coastal fisheries andcommunities.
island Restoration and MaintenanceBarrier islands play a variety of roles for the Gulf recreationalfishery. First and foremost, they offer unique habitat forsought-after species like speckled trout, redfish, flounder,tarpon, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and many others.They also provide protection from the sometimes rough Gulfwaters to fragile marshes, sea grass beds, oyster reefs andother vital habitats in coastal bays, lakes and sounds behindthe islands. The islands are also home to coastalcommunities, boat docks, marinas and other facilities vital toserving the needs of sportfishermen.
Beneficial Use of dredged MaterialsThe Gulf contains an enormous source of sediment that hasbeen largely untapped for ecosystem restoration projects. TheU.S. Army Corps of Engineers is largely responsible formaintenance dredging of harbors and shipping channels acrossthe Gulf, removing as much as 100 million cubic yards ofsediment or more on an annual basis. However, generally lessthan 20 percent of that material is used beneficially torehabilitate coastal marshes and fortify beaches and barrierislands. Instead, the material is dumped into disposal sites andinto deeper water where it cannot be transported back tobeaches and marshes through tides and currents. Federalguidelines require the disposal of dredged materials in the leastexpensive manner possible. They also require state agencies tomatch a percentage of the costs for beneficially placing thematerials, despite the fact that the dredging activity and theresulting changes in hydrology are often the reason for thechanges in sediment movement and habitat quality.
In some cases, states have had the money to pay for theadditional costs or the Corps has opted to use the materialsto rebuild marshes and islands when funds are available.However, tens of millions of tons of dredged material isbasically thrown away, a practice that must be curtailed iflarge-scale habitat restoration in the Gulf is to be achieved.The Corps has recommended using RESTORE Act funds todeepen shipping channels to encourage economic activity inthe Gulf region. The beneficial use of the materials dredgedfor channel deepening should be required to the fullestextent possible, specifically for marsh, barrier island andbeach restoration.
Mangrove ForestsMangroves play a vital role in Gulf fisheries and wildlifehabitat by helping to stabilize shorelines and barrier islands,providing cover for fish and nesting areas for sea birds. Manymangrove forests have been removed and replaced bybulkheads over the last several decades, especially in Florida,to facilitate near-shore development. In Louisiana, severalsmaller mangrove islands in the Barataria and TimbalierBasins were contaminated with oil during the DeepwaterHorizon spill, damaging roots and destabilizing soils causingrapid erosion of important fish habitat.
Photo Credit: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Bulldozer moving dredge pipe on newly created beach at Louisiana’s
In addition to the islands that form the barrier between theGulf and coastal sounds and bays, innumerable smallerislands lie behind the barriers. They play an essential role inproviding habitat for a variety of fish and forage species aswell as provide nesting grounds for a host of birds. Therestoration of both the barrier islands and the smallerislands in coastal lakes and bays, many of which were heavilyoiled during the 2010 spill and in previous oil spills, isessential. Barrier islands and smaller island restoration canbe conducted at the same time utilizing the same equipmentand sediment sources since many are located near eachother. Barrier islands also should be rebuilt comprehensivelywith dunes and beaches restored along with back barriermarshes. Re-establishment of back barrier marshes, alongwith beaches and dunes, allows islands to help trap sandmigrating with tides and currents as well as sand washed offbeaches during hurricanes and tropical storms.
Photo Credit: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
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An extensive examination of habitat should be conducted ineach Gulf state to determine where mangroves can beplanted, restored and utilized to help stabilize existinghabitat. Also, investing in a long-term monitoring andreplanting program to help mangroves recover from freezesand other environmental impacts can help stabilize andimprove fisheries habitat.
sea Grass BedsSea grass beds provide habitat for numerous popular Gulfsportfish and their forage. A variety of factors havecontributed to the damage and loss of extensive areas of seagrasses, including excessive sediment and nutrient loadsfrom freshwater runoff, hurricanes and impacts from boatusage. Efforts undertaken by the Tampa Bay EstuaryProgram and other estuary restoration programs – to workwith municipalities along the Florida coast to reduceexcessive storm water runoff and limit the amounts ofartificial fertilizers entering coastal bays – have helpedincrease sea grass coverage over the last two decades. Also,marking channels to help boaters stay in deeper waters andexploring innovative projects that use GPS and othertechnology can help boaters avoid sensitive shallow waterhabitat. Those initiatives combined with innovative efforts torepair and fertilize grass beds can further reduce damagesfrom prop scarring. Expanding these successful efforts inFlorida and using them in other Gulf states can help improvefisheries habitat.
In Texas, sea grass beds are being damaged by a lack offreshwater inflows from rivers that have been dammed anddiverted several times before they reach their mouths incoastal bays. Restoring proper freshwater and saltwaterinteraction in coastal bays across the Gulf is necessary toensure healthy sea grass beds.
oyster Reefs and scallop Beds Oysters and scallops generally are cultivated and prized inthe Gulf for their value as commercial fisheries. However,
their value extends far beyond the price they bring inrestaurants and seafood markets. Both provide essentialhabitat for a variety of finfish, crabs and shrimp. Theyimprove water quality. Oysters also play an important role inprotecting vulnerable marsh shorelines and reducingturbidity.
Florida has recommended investing NRDA funds in scallopbed restoration in limited areas along the Panhandle.Expanding these efforts to other parts of the Florida GulfCoast can help restore vital fisheries habitat.
All five Gulf states have established programs through theirwildlife, fisheries and natural resource management agenciesto increase the size of and enhance oyster reefs by depositinga variety of cultch materials, including crushed limestoneand concrete and recycled oyster shells collected fromrestaurants and processors. Oyster lease holders also deploycultch to help facilitate growth and commercial harvest. It isimportant, however, to build oyster reefs with the intent ofimproving fisheries habitat and water quality and not just forthe purpose of improving harvest.
TNC, CCA and a host of other conservation groups haveworked to expand and facilitate oyster habitat by buildingartificial reefs and installing metal cages and biodegradablesacks filled with recycled oyster shells along shorelines tohelp dampen wave action and capture sediment. Theseprojects have proved enormously successful in improvingwater quality, protecting fragile shorelines and expandingfisheries habitat. They also have increased the amount ofspat oysters in a number of estuaries, which can helppopulate other reefs.
Speckled trout and many other sportfish live and feed near mangrove
roots and mangrove-covered islands.
Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
Oyster shells from processors and restaurants are used to rebuild reefs
in Mississippi Sound.
Expanding oyster reefs is not simply dependent upondepositing cultch or installing oyster cages. Properfreshwater and saltwater interaction is needed in manycoastal estuaries throughout the Gulf to ensure healthyoyster production. Inundating coastal bays with storm waterrunoff, increased salinity levels because of river dammingand diversions, and increased nutrients from municipal
Photo Credit: Chris Macaluso
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sewage systems and fertilizer runoff all have decreasedoyster production and will need to be addressed for oysterreef expansion to be possible in some locations.
Restoration efforts in the Mississippi River Delta call for theuse of diversions to help deliver the sediment needed torepair nearly a century of coastal land loss. Diverting waterand sediment will almost certainly displace some oysterreefs that have been developed over the last 50 years ormore. Many of these areas were once fresh and brackishmarshes but have seen dramatic increases in salinity levelsand loss of wetland because of levees along the MississippiRiver that have eliminated freshwater and sediment inputs.
At the same time, areas closer to the Gulf in Louisiana thatwere productive oyster habitats decades ago but havebecome too salty can become productive oyster groundsagain after diversions are constructed. A rigorousexamination of these and other environmental factors mustbe conducted to determine the most productive areas tobuild oyster reefs in order to maximize available funds andresources.
CoralsThe Gulf of Mexico is home to some of the nation’s mostunique coral habitats. Extensive corals can be found on theGulf side of the Florida Keys and also northward toward thecentral and northern Florida coast. Also, coral colonies canbe found on salt domes rising from the Gulf floor off thecoasts of Louisiana and Texas in an area called “The FlowerGarden Banks.” Coral colonies also can be found on oil andgas platforms, shipwrecks and other artificial reef structuresthroughout the Gulf.
These corals provide essential habitat for a variety of highly-prized recreational and commercial species such assnappers, groupers, amberjacks and even migratory speciessuch as cobia and king mackerel. Coral colonies in the Gulfhave been in decline for many years, primarily due topollution, and it may take a decade or longer to fully evaluatethe damages to shallow and deepwater corals from theDeepwater Horizon spill. Investments in long-termexaminations of coral colonies and efforts to reduce thepollution that is causing coral loss should be a focus of oilspill recovery efforts. Also, coral restoration techniques –such as growing coral larvae in stock enhancement centers torestock natural and artificial reefs – should be explored.
artificial ReefsTens of thousands of artificial reefs have been builtthroughout the Gulf at various depths using a host ofmaterials including scrap concrete, concrete reef balls,decommissioned ships and battle tanks, and even car andairplane frames. Alabama alone boasts more than 17,000artificial reefs off its coast. Every Gulf state has an artificialreef creation program operated by state agencies that oftenwork with federal agencies and nonprofit conservationorganizations to identify and obtain clearances for reefconstruction, gather materials to use for reef deploymentand develop funding sources for reef construction. The CCAworks closely with state and federal agencies to make use ofmaterials such as damaged bridges, discarded chunks ofconcrete from demolished buildings, and materials fromconcrete manufacturing plants. A glut of available reefmaking materials is available, but a lack of adequate fundshampers construction of new reefs. Furthermore, gettingclearances for reef construction from state and federalagencies and resolving potential conflicts with other usergroups, including commercial fishermen and the oil and gasand navigation industries, can slow and, at times, halt reefconstruction. Establishing a fund that can assist indeployment of reefing materials as well as help gainclearances for reef construction is advised.
Reef construction has dramatically increased fish habitat inthe Gulf and expanded the range of many highly-prized reeffish like snapper and grouper. This construction also hasincreased angler opportunity by establishing productivehabitat in more accessible locations. Generally, GPScoordinates are provided for fishermen to find reefs and for shrimpers to identify and avoid reefs that may snag andtear nets.
Expansion of reef construction and enhancement of existingreefs is recommended as a way to repair damaged habitatfrom the Deepwater Horizon spill as well as compensate foraccess lost by recreational fishermen while nearly 40 percentof the Gulf was closed to fishing during and after the spill.Reefs should be built in areas where they can enhanceexisting habitat or replace habitat that has been lost ordamaged by the oil spill and hurricanes. Examining existingreefs to determine if they still are viable habitat andproducing the desired results is necessary to aid the
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Corals grow extensively on an oil platform off the Texas coast.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 11
construction of new reefs. Also, reef location should beconsidered. Many deepwater reefs are not accessible to themajority of anglers who fish out of smaller boats or frompiers and shore.
Rigs to Reefs (idle iron)An estimated 3,000 oil and gas production platforms arespread across the northern and western Gulf from inshorebays and lakes to waters more than 2,500 feet deep off theOuter Continental Shelf. Most of the platforms are located in300 feet of water or less and are fixed-leg structures, whileothers are larger floating structures that use massivepontoons, buoys and sophisticated GPS-operated propulsionsystems to drill for minerals. While the obvious intendedpurpose of these structures is to extract oil, natural gas andsometimes sulfur, nearly all of them act as artificial reefs thatattract a wide variety of sea life like corals, sponges and ahost of crustaceans. They are excellent habitat for a numberof reef fishes, especially snapper, grouper, trigger fish andspadefish. These structures often are utilized by recreationalanglers. Even the floating rigs in thousands of feet of waterattract highly migratory species such as tuna, marlin,dolphin, wahoo, king mackerel and barracuda by breakingcurrents and attracting baitfish.
Regulations agreed to by the companies that own thestructures and enforced by the Department of the Interiorrequire plugging the well and removal of structures andassociated materials to 15 feet below the Gulf floor withinone year of decommissioning of the rig. This is necessarybecause the older rigs become less stable over time and moresusceptible to being severely damaged or toppled duringhurricanes. The decommissioned rigs also pose potentialhazards to navigation as well as a danger to other operatingoil and gas structures.
The companies that own the structures are responsible forthe maintenance and liability of rigs whether or not they stillare producing. Many rigs are simply removed and brought toshore, though some structures are toppled in place to createartificial reefs or removed from the sea floor and deposited
in nearby pre-cleared reefing sites. These sites are often faroffshore in water 85 feet deep or more because of CoastGuard requirements, though many exceptions have beenmade to this requirement and rigs-to-reef sites have beenbuilt in shallower waters.
Since 2010, decommissioned rigs are being removed fasterthan at any other time in the history of offshore oil and gasexploration in the Gulf. Often, explosives are used to separatethe rig legs from the floor of the Gulf, resulting in massivemortality of the fish living on those structures. Federalregulations do not restrict the use of high explosives andoften the fish that are killed are red snapper, grouper andamberjack. These species have been identified as“overfished” by the National Marine Fisheries Service andhave harvest restrictions in order to help stocks recover.Thousands of fish can be destroyed each time a rig isdetonated. The structures also are removed with no regardfor the corals, sponges and other sea life that has attached tothe rig legs.
Photo Credit: CCA Louisiana
Concrete rubble from hurricane-damaged buildings is being used to
build a reef in Breton Sound, La.
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife, Artificial Reef Program
The practice of one federal agency allowing – even requiring– the destruction of fish and fish habitat while anotherfederal agency severely restricts harvest of those same fish isunacceptable to the recreational fishing community. Also, aneffort should be made to keep as many rigs in the water aspossible once they are decommissioned, either throughreefing in place or by depositing the removed materials inpre-cleared reefing zones. The habitat created by these reefsand the diversity of sea life is far too valuable to the Gulf’sfisheries and fishermen for that habitat to be removedwithout a full understanding of the consequences.
Louisiana has established the Artificial Reef DevelopmentProgram, which allows rig owners to save money on theremoval of rigs and relieve themselves of liability for thestructures so rigs may become artificial reefs. Participantsdonate to the state all or part of the decommissioned rigsplus half the savings realized by not having to remove thestructures. The program has been popular with many oil andgas companies as well as fishermen since its inception in
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1986, though in the past the fund has been tapped to coverother governmental expenses. Texas established anaggressive rigs-to-reefs program in the early 1990s that hassuccessfully created more than 50 reef sites usingdecommissioned platforms and Alabama also has used anumber of decommissioned rigs as reef materials.
The use of oil spill recovery dollars is strongly recommendedto enhance existing rigs-to-reefs programs, establish a well-protected fund to fully examine the habitat created by oil andgas platforms, resolve liability issues involved in leavingdecommissioned rigs in place until the materials can betransformed into reefs and work to clear additional reefing sites.
sargassumSome of the most important offshore fisheries habitats arefloating mats and rip lines of sargassum weed. Tuna, dolphin,marlin, wahoo, cobia, triple tail and many other speciesutilize the sargassum mats and rips to ambush smaller fishdrawn to the weed to feed on the tiny invertebrates living inthe tangled mass.
Very little is known about the immediate effects of the oilspill on sargassum in the Gulf, though widespread oiling ofthe floating mats was observed during the spill. The weedmoves throughout the Gulf and Caribbean and is morewidespread at times due to currents and weather. A betterunderstanding of how much sargassum was damaged by theoil spill, its subsequent recovery, and the movement of thegrass mats throughout the Gulf will help determine theoverall health of the fishery.
improving Water QualityReducing nutrient loads and other pollutants entering theGulf from rivers throughout the United States is arguably oneof the most difficult but most important aspects of theregion’s ecosystem recovery. Excessive nutrients are enteringthe system from local and regional sources as well as areasthousands of miles from the Gulf, causing the loss of seagrass beds, contaminating oyster and coral reefs, andaffecting the health of coastal marshes and bays.
Non-point pollution in the form of artificial fertilizers fromfarms and nutrients from municipal runoff coursing into theMississippi River throughout the Midwest are causing anannual summer anoxic zone in the Gulf off the Louisianacoast that can grow as large as 10,000 square miles. It iscommonly referred to as the “dead zone.” Large algae bloomsform as a result of the artificial nutrients interacting withwarm Gulf waters. As those algae blooms die and sink, thedecaying process removes oxygen from the lower watercolumn in an area sometimes as large as New Jersey.
While many steps have been and can be taken to reducenutrient loading in coastal bays and estuaries coming fromrivers and streams originating close to the Gulf, the effort toreduce the nitrogen and phosphorus loading in theMississippi River is going to have to be conducted on anational policy level. Gulf states are going to, understandably,
be reluctant to dedicate oil spill recovery dollars to reducingnon-point pollution coming from the Midwest. However, aneffort on the parts of all states in the Mississippi Basin, aswell as by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EnvironmentalProtection Agency and others, must be undertaken to ensurereductions in nutrient loading and preserve wetlands thatcan help absorb nutrients before they reach the Gulf.
Restoration of the Mississippi River deltaFisheries scientists and managers across the Gulf agree thatthe loss of habitat in the Mississippi River Delta along theLouisiana coast is an enormous threat to the overall healthand sustainability of fisheries throughout the Gulf. Thewaters of the Mississippi River provide the right mix of saltand fresh that feeds the growth of vital forage fish likemullet, shrimp and menhaden. The extensive network ofswamps, marshes and barrier islands formed over thousandsof years of the delta shifting across Louisiana is the Gulf’smost extensive nursery ground.
Photo Credit: Tim Osborn, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Marshes in the Mississippi River Delta are subsiding and eroding
faster than any other land mass in the world.
Louisiana contains 40 percent of the nation’s coastalwetlands. Unfortunately, it is also home to 90 percent of thecoastal wetland loss. Nearly 2,000 square miles of coastalhabitat has subsided and eroded along Louisiana’s coast inthe past 80 years, and the loss continues at a rate ofapproximately 15 square miles per year or more. Theprimary culprit for the land loss is the isolation of theMississippi River’s sediment and freshwater from thewetlands it once created. Levees, jetties and dams designedto limit flooding and improve shipping on the river no longerallow land-building and sustaining sediment to enter thedelta. Adding to the loss are thousands of miles of canals andshipping channels that have carved up coastal marshes,drastically altered hydrology and allowed saltwater topenetrate deep into once brackish and freshwater wetlands.Artificial saline environments have been created, allowingthe harvest of saltwater fish in areas far inland of theirhistoric ranges.
A number of restoration techniques, including divertingwater and sediment from the Mississippi River back intocoastal marshes, using dredged materials from near-shore
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 13
and offshore borrow sites to rebuild barrier islands andmarshes, and the use of oyster reefs and other naturalfeatures to protect fragile shorelines have beenrecommended to curb the land loss. Building these projectsis certain to cause some changes to areas that are currentlyproductive saltwater fisheries and will force many speciesback to their historic ranges. The long-term improvementsfrom making the Mississippi Delta more sustainable andfunctional are absolutely necessary to sustaining coastalfisheries in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf.
improving Fisheries science, dataCollection and ManagementEvaluating the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill onGulf fisheries has been difficult because so little was knownabout the comprehensive state of fish in the Gulf before thespill. Scientists and fisheries managers who participated inthe workshops that helped develop this report all indicatedthe baseline data on fisheries populations, migration andreproductive patterns, genetics, harvest rates and manyother critical aspects of fisheries biology were incompletebefore the spill.
Spill recovery dollars present an unprecedented opportunityfor the scientific community to address the gaps in manyaspects of fisheries data. With proper investments, fisheriesscientists and managers can gain a better idea of stock sizeswithout having to rely almost entirely on evaluatingharvested fish. Capacity for research can be expanded byimproving existing facilities and building new facilities thatcan examine genetics, growth rates, changes in water quality,exposure to hydrocarbons and dispersants and many otherfactors. Researchers also can get on the water more and beable to better evaluate habitat quality, environmentalchanges and reproductive patterns.
Spill recovery funds also present an opportunity to expandeducation programs that can help anglers better understandfisheries management and regulations and teach them tobecome better stewards of the resource.
Fisheries science and stock enhancementCentersFisheries science and stock enhancement centers have beenproposed for construction using early NRDA funds in bothFlorida and Louisiana and have been endorsed by severalfisheries conservation organizations. These facilities can helpexpand scientific capacity in the Gulf by conducting researchon genetics, the impacts of hydrocarbons and dispersants,excessive nutrients and other water quality issues, changesin salinity and water temperature, and other environmentalfactors.
The centers also can assist in fish restocking efforts in agenetically appropriate way in areas where habitat andforage base allow for larger sportfish populations and can beused as nurseries for growing marsh grasses, mangroves andother native vegetation used in wetland restoration.
Fish stocks are limited by available habitat and food sources.Fisheries managers and anglers recognize that efforts tosimply increase available fish to catch are unfeasible withouthealthy habitats. Enhancement centers also can potentiallyhelp produce oyster spat, corals and other marine lifeessential to healthy fisheries. Furthermore, the centers canserve as important teaching facilities for students from gradeschool through post-graduate and the public in general.
Science and stock enhancement centers in different statesshould coordinate efforts and share information whenappropriate to reduce duplication of effort and maximizeavailable funding. Long-term funding sources for stockenhancement centers should be established before thecenters are constructed to ensure state fisheries agenciesaren’t saddled with expensive staff and maintenancerequirements.
long-term Monitoring of habitat andRestoration ProjectsHabitat creation and restoration projects will certainly behigh priorities as Gulf restoration and recovery fundsbecome available. Simply building the projects that aim torepair habitat damaged and lost to the spill as well as repairlong-term habitat losses is not enough. The projects must bemonitored to evaluate if they are delivering their intendedresults.
Fisheries scientists participating in the workshops indicatedthat it is assumed that all artificial reefs are creatingbeneficial habitat and are still functioning after a decade ormore of construction. But very little time and resources havebeen invested in examining those reefs to determine if theassumptions are accurate. Some reefs have been created andnever examined by researchers to determine if they areproperly located, functioning or producing desired results.
Photo Credit: C. Ledford, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department—Artificial Reef Program
14 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Investing limited recovery dollars in a myriad of habitatcreation projects is only worthwhile if the projects aresuccessful. Monitoring, maintenance and possible changes inconstruction and operation will be needed to ensure long-term success.
Mapping of Benthic structures The floor of the Gulf and the bays, lakes and sounds that feedinto the Gulf contain tens of thousands of both artificial andnatural reef structures, ledges, lumps, salt domes, shipwrecks and other features. All of these structures potentiallyplay a role in providing habitat for marine life, includingpopular recreational species. Many of these structures havebeen clearly marked on navigation charts and other maps.Some have yet to be charted or examined in any way. Somehave undergone significant changes over time, reducing theircapacity to serve as functioning habitat.
It is difficult for scientists to monitor potential damage tounderwater structures, especially deepwater corals andother Outer Continental Shelf habitats, without knowingwhat is there. Extensive mapping of the floor of the Gulfusing advanced sonar and imaging should be a priority forspill recovery efforts.
More Complete Fisheries-dependent dataFishermen and fisheries managers across the Gulf havecomplained for many years that the data collected on fishingeffort, numbers of fish harvested and fish stock sizes isincomplete and too limited to depict an accurate picture offish and fishermen. Oil spill recovery dollars present anopportunity to invest in better data collection based on bothfisheries dependent and independent information.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses theMarine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) as aprimary tool for evaluating angler harvest and effort offederally managed species such as snapper, grouper,amberjack and trigger fish. The MRIP uses a combination ofrandom phone calls, mailed surveys to recreational anglersand dockside intercepts to evaluate fishing effort as well asharvested fish and fisheries stock health. While some anglersand fisheries managers agree that this method is animprovement over past harvest assessment efforts, the MRIPstill is failing to capture information from enough anglers toaccurately account for effort and harvests. Also, the MRIPdepends entirely on measuring what fishermen haveharvested and does not reflect catch and release or give anaccurate enough determination of overall stock sizes.
A number of programs have been initiated by fisheriesconservation groups and state fisheries managementagencies in the Gulf to increase harvest data and conductmore complete surveys of angler effort. These programsinclude the iSnapper program initiated by the HarteResearch Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies that helpscharter captains track red snapper harvests by using anapplication on smartphones and tablets; the iAngler programdeveloped by the Snook and Gamefish Foundation that usessmartphones to help anglers track the date and location of all
fish caught and released or harvested during a particulartrip; and the Recreational Angler Offshore Harvest Permitdeveloped by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife andFisheries that requires angler participation using either apaper permit or a smartphone application to track offshorefishing effort and harvest data.
All these efforts and other angler-participation datacollection methods can be used to paint a more completepicture of effort and harvest in the Gulf as long as the data isvalidated by fisheries managers. Also, the use of smartphoneapplications can expedite the process of analyzing the dataand give fisheries managers a more timely account of harvestrates and effort during a particular season. Developingmethods to validate and use this data and expedite theanalysis of harvest-dependent data by using oil recoverydollars will be critical.
increasing Collection of Fisheries-independent dataRecreational anglers have expressed concern and frustrationover stock assessments and harvest data that is dependentlargely on random angler surveys and they urge investmentin a more complete analysis of fisheries stocks based on whatis actually in the water. State and federal fisheries managersand biologists also have expressed concern that they do notknow enough about the habitat being utilized by fish,migration patterns and overall health of many of the Gulf’smost regulated species.
Several methods for increasing fisheries-independent datahave been suggested, including putting more observers fromthe National Marine Fisheries Service, state managementagencies and research institutions on charter andrecreational anglers’ boats and expanding efforts to usemanned and unmanned submersibles to help count reef fish.
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 15
Anglers also urge NMFS to end its reluctance to survey fishon man-made structures. There is absolutely no doubt thathighly-regulated species are utilizing man-made structures,including oil and gas platforms, as habitat and that anglerstarget those structures to catch fish. Not including ananalysis of man-made structures when collecting fisheries-independent data, especially when fish harvested from thoseareas are counted in fisheries-dependent surveys, is paintingan incomplete picture of the total fisheries population.
sustaining and expanding Fish TaggingProgramsFisheries management agencies in each Gulf state operatefish tagging programs in an effort to gather informationabout migration patterns and harvest rates. Many of theseprograms are conducted in conjunction with conservationgroups like CCA and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and they relyon recreational anglers to assist in catching, tagging andreleasing fish with what are known as “legacy tags.” The tagscontain printed phone numbers for anglers to call to reportthat the fish has been either caught and released orharvested.
Gulf and potentially help track long-term changes from thespill and other environmental impacts.
Barotrauma Reduction ProgramsImproving catch-and-release survival rates for reef fishreeled up from the depths is a priority for a host ofconservation groups, charter captains and recreationalfishermen throughout the Gulf. No conservation-mindedfisherman wants to release a fish only to watch it float awaybelly up and know it will become an easy meal for dolphinsor sharks.
Fish that are brought up from waters deeper than 30 feet,especially reef fish like jacks, snapper and grouper,experience barotrauma, which is the displacement of internalorgans and eyes through the rapid expansion of the swimbladder. Reducing the effects of barotrauma can increase theoverall health of fisheries stocks and allow fishermen to bemore selective about the fish they want to harvest whilefeeling more confident the ones they release will survive. Theability to demonstrate improved survival rates for snapper,grouper and amberjack also can potentially lead to longerseasons and more access for anglers.
Attempts to increase the survival rate of fish experiencingbarotrauma have been undertaken in the Gulf in the past byrequiring anglers to carry and use venting tools thatpuncture swim bladders and allow the air to escape.However, many anglers are unfamiliar with how to use thetools and sometimes cause more injury to the fish.
Anglers in other regions have been using barotraumareduction devices that gradually lower fish back to thedepths from which they were caught, allowing gasses in theswim bladder to dissipate and improving survival rates.Pacific Northwest fishermen are using the devices to releasehalibut and rockfish and report markedly improved survivalrates, sometimes as high as 90 percent. In some cases,conservation groups have worked with state and federalfisheries managers and the manufacturers of the devices todistribute them to anglers at little or no cost. Research isneeded to determine if barotrauma reduction devices willwork as successfully with Gulf fish. The devices are being
Photo Credit: CCA Louisiana
Other innovative programs developed over the past decadeinvolve implanting fish with telemetry tags that can betracked using buoys, receivers anchored to the water bottomor satellites. Telemetry tagging programs have been used tohelp study tarpon, redfish, speckled trout, sturgeon, sharks,grouper and other species. They are helping researchersgather timely data on migration patterns and movementbased on seasons, spawning habits, salinity levels, watertemperature, forage availability and other factors. Telemetrytagging programs can help fisheries managers set betterseasons and locate fish populations for stock assessments.They also can help determine the types of habitat specificspecies prefer. These programs require significantmaintenance because tagged fish perish from naturalmortality or are caught, tags stop transmitting after timerequiring the tagging of additional fish, and tracking buoyscan become damaged and disabled by any number of factors.
Investing additional oil spill recovery funds to advancetagging programs can help expand research capacity in the
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
Reef dwellers like this amberjack experience barotrauma when reeled
up from deep waters.
16 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Recreational Fishing Business impactsand Restoration of angler interest,Confidence and accessThe Deepwater Horizon spill decimated the Gulf’srecreational fishery unlike any other man-made or naturaldisaster in the last half century. While hurricanes, freezes,floods and other natural events have certainly caused greatharm to marina owners, charter captains, tackle and baitretailers and coastal communities, there always has been asense of determination – a feeling that the region wouldrecover and eventually the infrastructure supportingrecreational angling would be rebuilt after those events.
The long-term impacts of the oil spill were almost entirelyunknown during the late spring and summer of 2010. Asimages of oil gushing from an uncontrolled well and thick,rusty-colored and black oil coated beaches and wetlandsacross the northern Gulf, some fishermen wondered if they’dever be able to return to some of their favorite spots and ifthe fish would even continue to live in them. Approximately40 percent of the Gulf was closed to recreational andcommercial fishing in the spring and summer of 2010 duringthe peak season when anglers were planning trips andlooking forward to spending time on the water with familyand friends. Some areas in Louisiana continued to experienceperiodic recreational fishing closures from oiling nearlythree years after the plugging of the Deepwater Horizon well.
Across the country, anglers and seafood eaters worry aboutthe safety of handling and eating fish from the Gulf. Manyexpress concerns about whether or not it is safe to even visitthe region.
Over time, reports of great catches and extensive testing offish and other seafood for contaminants have helpedalleviate some of the concerns. However, none of theseefforts has justly compensated fishermen for the loss of anentire summer of fishing nor have they completelyeliminated the fear that the Gulf has been irreparablyharmed by the spill. Making sure word continues to spreadabout the Gulf’s recovery, highlighting the wonderful fishingopportunities, and ensuring anglers have access to qualityhabitat and facilities is the solution to repairing what hasbeen lost due to the spill.
improving and expanding existing FacilitiesGulf states and their coastal communities have invested in ahost of facilities to improve public access to quality fishingand boating experiences. Public boat launches, beachsideparking areas, wildlife management areas, parks and piers allenhance fishing and other coastal recreation activities. Thesefacilities help sustain and improve the economy of manycoastal communities by attracting out-of-town and out-of-state visitors and add to the quality of life for residents.
Parking lots at public boat launches, especially those at parksand other mixed-use facilities that have sports fields,theaters and activity centers, can become overcrowded,leaving little space for parking boat trailers. Even those that
used by a few anglers in the Gulf who report they work muchbetter than previously tried barotrauma reduction efforts.
The FishSmart initiative, supported by the AmericanSportfishing Association, Recreational Boating and FishingFoundation and many other fisheries and conservationgroups, is working to expand the use of barotraumareduction devices and education programs that teachfishermen how to properly handle fish that will be released.FishSmart can work closely with Sea Grant programs in theGulf as well as state fisheries agencies to expand existingprograms designed to improve catch-and-release survivalrates.
Oil spill recovery dollars should be invested in programs thathelp anglers reduce the effects of barotrauma and expandeducation about the need to properly handle and release fishin order to improve survival rates and increase fish stocks.
expanding Fisheries educationBetter information for anglers about fisheries managementregulations, seasons, the ecosystem and safe boating willlead to a more enjoyable and productive experience on thewater. Several outreach and education efforts are funded bySea Grant programs, NOAA, state wildlife and fisheriesagencies and conservation groups that help raise anglerawareness of invasive species, MRIPs, tagging programs andresponsible boating.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute is collaborating withfisheries managers and conservation groups to expand itsfishery science and management education program to Gulfanglers and commercial fishermen. The program, called theMarine Resource Education Program has been verysuccessful in New England at bringing state and federalfisheries managers, anglers and commercial fishermentogether for workshops to resolve misconceptions aboutfisheries legislation, explain the fisheries managementcouncil process and help resolve conflicts between varioususer groups. New England fishermen who have participatedin the workshops have unanimously agreed the program hashelped develop a better understanding of fisheriesmanagement and lessened animosity among anglers andcommercial harvesters. Further expansion of this programand other programs that can help anglers better understandfisheries management in the Gulf using oil spill recoverydollars is warranted.
Supporting education programs that engage students fromgrade school through post-graduate college is warranted aswell. Many schools throughout the Gulf region haveinitiatives that allow students to participate in coastal habitatrestoration, beach and waterway cleanup efforts andfisheries biology. Sustaining and expanding these programsshould be a priority for state agencies and local governmentsreceiving oil spill recovery funds.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 17
only have boat launches can become easily overcrowdedduring peak fishing seasons, discouraging anglers from usingthe facilities. Restrooms are often dirty and in disrepair.Docks at these facilities become damaged and evendangerous to use from lack of repair.
Some public piers along the Gulf offer anglers ampleopportunity to catch fish in similar quantities and quality tofishermen in boats. However, many lack adequate parking,especially those adjacent to popular beaches and marinas.The piers themselves can be damaged by exposure and use,especially when hurricanes hit the region. Often, piers thatare damaged by hurricanes are closed for several months oreven years, making it more difficult for businesses to recoverfrom the storms.
adaptations to existing and planned infrastructure projects,generally with minimal costs and impacts to the ecosystem.
Officials working on levee systems in Terrebonne Parish inLouisiana have suggested building smaller public fishingpiers adjacent to water exchange structures that allow fishpassage and tidal exchanges through levees. Many anglers,especially those without boats, fish off the shoulder of theroad in areas where highways abut coastal marshes, bays andlagoons. Making slight improvements to road shoulders byincreasing parking spaces or adding relatively small piers toroadside areas can help improve angler safety as well asopportunities to catch fish.
Kayak fishing has become extremely popular with Gulfanglers over the last decade. Highways that course throughcoastal wetlands allow access to very productive fisheries forkayakers. Expanding roadside areas where kayaks can belaunched and providing adequate parking will help fosterthis very popular and expanding fishing method.
More Timely season settingIndecisiveness about start and end dates of seasons forpopular recreational fish, especially red snapper, makes itdifficult for retailers, marina owners and especially charteroperators to serve customers. Dates for the summer seasonfor red snapper were changed multiple times in the monthsleading up to the beginning of the 2013 season. After a fallseason for red snapper was discussed in July 2013, the datesfor the season were not established until less than a monthbefore the season started.
A number of factors have contributed to the late setting ofseason dates, including disputes between state and federalfisheries managers, a lack of complete data on harvestnumbers from previous seasons, a lack of complete dataconcerning the number of anglers participating in theharvest and many others. No matter the causes, workingtoward remedies and bringing more certainty to settingdates is important for the fishermen and the economy of theGulf. Investing oil spill recovery dollars in setting timelyseason dates is recommended.
Youth Fishing Tournaments and ClinicsFor decades, fisheriesmanagement agenciesand conservation groupsacross the Gulf havebeen sponsoring andhosting successfulevents designed to getchildren more engagedin fishing and expandyouth educationopportunities. Often,these events are sopopular they exceed thecapacity of the facilitieswhere they are hosted.Fishing clinics and
Photo Credit: CCA Louisiana
Public access beaches, in some cases, lack comprehensivemanagement plans and have poor access roads andinadequate systems for trash and debris removal. Beachesthat do not allow vehicles sometimes lack enough parkingareas nearby to accommodate anglers.
Improvements to these existing facilities across the Gulf canhelp repair some of the access lost by fishermen during andafter the 2010 spill and help strengthen local economies.Establishing a dedicated fund to help repair and improvethese facilities, especially for making repairs in the wakes ofhurricanes, is a recommended use of oil spill recoverydollars.
identifying areas in need of new Public Boatlaunches and PiersMany areas along the Gulf Coast would see increased angleractivity and opportunity through construction of new publicboat launches and public piers. In some cases, building newpubic fishing piers will require simply making small
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
18 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
tournaments at public and private piers and public parks andbeaches held across the Gulf since the oil spill have attractedhundreds of young anglers and their parents. These eventscan be one of the few opportunities families have to fish andexperience the outdoors together on an annual basis.Investing spill recovery dollars in programs that sponsor andhost existing tournaments and events and expanding thenumber of events each year will give more young anglers andtheir parents the opportunity to experience fishing and learna conservation ethic.
Continuing and expanding Public Relations andadvertising CampaignsAdvertising campaigns promoting Gulf tourism and toutingthe excellent fishing have helped instill confidence in anglersand visitors from across the country and helped repair theregion’s economy in the wake of the spill. State tourismoffices have used spill recovery funds innovatively to sponsortelevision shows promoting fishing in the Gulf. State charterboat associations have been given grants to promote fishingat boat shows and outdoors expos throughout the country aswell as purchase advertisements in national fishingpublications.
Campaigns that promote the safety and health benefits ofGulf seafood, general tourism across the Gulf, quality fishing,and special events like large fishing tournaments will helpthe area continue to recover from the stigma associated withthe spill and improve local economies.
Photo Credit: John Balance
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 19
FloridaFlorida is the nation’s sportfishingcapital. The Sunshine State hosted nearly 2.4million saltwater anglers in 2011, more than allthe other four Gulf States combined. With populardestinations from Pensacola through the Panhandleand the Big Bend, south to Tampa Bay, Sarasota, BocaGrande, The Ten Thousand Islands and theEverglades, Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to theregion’s busiest sportfishing ports.
Onshore impacts from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spillwere not as severe in Florida compared to states closer to thesite of the leaking well. The heaviest oiling in Floridaoccurred on beaches along the Panhandle. Though near-shore damage to fish habitat was limited, long-term impactsto offshore habitat may take a decade or more to fully bedetermined. Florida’s recreational fishing industry alsosuffered through the bad publicity surrounding the spill andstill is trying to rebound from the loss of an entire spring andsummer of access.
Florida’s fisheries habitat have undergone decades ofdegradation due to development and changes in hydrology.The RESTORE Act, NRDA and other oil spill recovery effortsprovide funds for projects that address both spill impactsand long-term habitat changes, as well as increase fisheriesscience capacity and expand educational opportunities.
Florida workshop participants stressed that several habitatrestoration programs are already established, like the TampaBay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor National EstuaryProgram and the Comprehensive Everglades RestorationPlan. Via these programs, extensive scientific analysis hasbeen conducted and plans and project recommendationsdeveloped that could benefit greatly from an infusion of oilspill recovery dollars. Avoiding duplicative efforts andutilizing programs that already have laid the groundwork forhabitat restoration can expedite this important work.
habitat Restoration and improvement hydrologic Restoration and Water QualityMany of Florida’s Gulf Coast estuaries have been impaired bypoor water quality due in large part to municipal stormwater runoff. While freshwater is a vital component ofestuaries, coastal bays are often rapidly inundated withstorm runoff, disrupting the natural balance of brackishsystems. This storm runoff can be laden with fertilizers andother nutrients that cause oxygen-depleting algae blooms
and other water quality issues. Other parts of the Everglades,however, suffer from too little freshwater interaction, causinga decline in mangroves, sea grass and other important fishhabitat.
The Tampa Bay Estuary Program worked with the FloridaDepartment of Environmental Protection, county-level publicworks departments and other conservation groups tomonitor and reduce nitrogen levels in Tampa Bay, leading tobroad restoration and expansion of sea grass beds over thelast decade. Reduction efforts include education programsthat inform homeowners about the detrimental impacts ofapplying too much fertilizer to lawns as well as hydrologicrestoration of water bodies that empty into Tampa Bay.
Projects that restore natural hydrology of rivers and creeks,limit the inundation of coastal estuaries with storm waterrunoff, return freshwater flows into estuaries that are losingvegetation due to high salinities, and reduce nutrient loadsshould be priorities for oil spill recovery dollars.
sea Grass Restoration Sea grass bed loss and degradation is plaguing many ofFlorida’s estuary systems. In some bays, as much as 90percent of historic sea grass beds has been extensivelydamaged or destroyed. Many grass beds can be restored byremedying the water quality and storm-water runoffproblems and by marking sensitive areas to encourageconservative and conscientious boat operation.
Some proven techniques can be employed to assist inrepairing sea grass damage. These include establishingroosting areas for birds over sea grass beds so guano canhelp fertilize the sediment and encourage grass growth, aswell as using degradable cotton fabric tubes filled withsediment to encourage sea grass rooting. In addition,advances in the capabilities and use of GPS and smart phonetechnologies hold tremendous potential to assist boaters onthe water in avoiding sensitive shallow water habitats.
Early NRDA projects approved by the state of Florida includea $2.7 million investment in sea grass restoration in FloridaBay. Larger-scale efforts should be undertaken in otherestuaries along the Florida Gulf Coast.
Marsh and Mangrove Restoration andexpansionDevelopment along Florida’s west coast has eliminatedthousands of acres of mangroves and brackish and saltwatermarshes in favor of bulkheads and other artificial shorelineprotection measures. It has also destabilized soils and
The Gulf states
20 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
increased turbidity. Losing mangroves and marshes meansfar less nursery habitat for juvenile sportfish and mature fish,as well as forage species and crustaceans. An aggressiveapproach should be taken to replant mangroves andreestablish marsh platforms.
A suggested method is to beneficially use dredged soil fromharbor maintenance to build new marsh platforms andcreate areas where mangroves can be planted.
Members of Project Greenshores, a habitat restoration effortin Pensacola Bay undertaken by Escambia County, theNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and WildlifeService and others, successfully built marshes in 2003 and2007 using, in part, dredge spoil from the Escambia River.Replicating that effort in other bays throughout Florida’swest coast will help offset marsh and mangrove lossexperienced over the last several decades.
oyster habitat Restoration Florida has seen a significant decline in healthy oyster reefsover the last several decades, especially in the Big Bendregion. This habitat loss is the result of several factors,including excessive storm water runoff, nutrient loading andoverharvest. Projects that focus on rehabilitating andexpanding oyster reefs by using available materials,especially recycled oyster shells, will help reestablish vitalhabitat utilized by finfish and forage fish like mullet, Gulfkillifish, croaker and crustaceans. In addition to directlyadding habitat, the reefs can provide more shorelineprotection to sensitive marshes and mangrove habitats inFlorida’s many Gulf Coast bay systems. The oyster beds canalso help improve water quality by filtering pollutants andreducing turbidity.
In Pensacola Bay, The Nature Conservancy has recommendedan investment of $8 million to establish up to eight miles ofoyster beds. Similar investments in other Florida bay systemsin the Panhandle and Big Bend areas will provide valuablefisheries habitat and make sportfishing more sustainable.
scallop Bed RestorationSimilar to oysters, scallop beds provide valuable habitat buthave been depleted by harvest and poor water quality.Scallop bed restoration in the Panhandle was included inFlorida’s list of early NRDA projects. Extensive scalloprestoration efforts in the Panhandle region as well as otherareas along Florida’s west coast would increase fisheriesproduction and opportunity.
Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Artificial Reef Program
Photo Credit: American Sportfishing Association
Coral Reef Restoration The Florida Keys and the Florida Shelf are home to two of thelargest coral reefs in the Gulf. These reefs support a host ofpopular recreational fish species and forage fish. Numerousstudies conducted over the last two decades showprecipitous decline in coral growth and the erosion of largeareas of once healthy corals. Pollution is the primary culpritfor the decline in coral production and reef erosion.
Science and stock enhancement centers should examinepollution impacts on corals as well as grow young corals toseed existing imperiled reefs and artificial reefs. Artificialreefs should also be closely examined to determine if theycan aid in the restoration of existing, historic coral reefs.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 21
artificial Reefs Florida anglers, especially those along the Panhandle whotarget snapper and grouper, urged investment in artificialreefs to enhance fisheries habitat and help repair lost accessto the area resulting from the oil spill. Many Florida anglerswho venture west to fish the numerous artificial reefs offAlabama’s coast would stay closer to home if there weremore opportunities and more productive, well-maintainedreefs in Florida waters. Reefs should be constructed in baysystems to attract species like speckled trout, redfish,flounder and Spanish mackerel, as well as in waters 40-100feet deep to attract snapper, grouper, amberjack andtriggerfish.
Before construction of new reefs, anglers urged anexamination of existing reefs to determine their productivityand whether or not they would benefit from enhancementefforts. Extensive mapping of reefs already built alongFlorida’s Gulf Coast should be conducted to help anglersbetter select fishing destinations. Also, a fund should beestablished with oil spill recovery dollars for long-termmonitoring and maintenance of reefs.
improved Fishery Monitoring, dataCollection, Research and ManagementFisheries science and stock enhancementCentersFlorida workshop attendees endorsed the construction ofstock enhancement centers to help expand research capacity,examine changes in fish habitat and restock depleted fishpopulations in a genetically appropriate manner wherehabitat conditions warrant restocking. Science and stockenhancement centers can help researchers betterunderstand the impacts of hydrocarbons, dispersants,salinity changes, water temperature changes and other man-made and natural impacts to fisheries stocks.
Furthermore, enhancement centers should be utilized togrow seed oysters, juvenile corals to help with reefrestoration efforts and sea grasses to help with therestoration of vital sportfishing habitat. Fish interaction withdifferent habitat types also should be studied.
Florida’s list of early NRDA projects includes $20 millioncommitted to building a science and stock enhancementcenter in Escambia County. Construction of additional stockenhancement centers should be considered whereappropriate.
Tarpon Migration and Breeding habitsThe chance to experience the heart-pounding, leaping battlewith a tarpon draws anglers from across the world toFlorida’s Gulf Coast. The health of the tarpon population isessential to sustaining Florida’s recreational fishing industry,especially for those who make their livings as guides.
Fisheries scientists admit to knowing little about tarponspawning habits. Investing oil spill recovery dollars indeveloping a better understanding of tarpon genetics,
migration and breeding habits will help improve the healthof the tarpon population and aid sustainable recreationalfishing.
Recreational Fishing Business impactsand Restoration of angler interest,Confidence and accessComprehensive evaluation of existing Piersand Boat launches and Construction of newFacilitiesFlorida’s Gulf Coast has numerous public parks, boatlaunches and public piers that are extensively utilized byrecreational fishermen with and without access to a boat.These facilities are essential to the area’s recreational fishingand tourism industry, but many have been damaged in thepast by hurricanes, and some suffer from general age andlack of repair.
A comprehensiveevaluation of existingfacilities to determine howthey can be repaired,improved and possiblyexpanded should beconducted with oil spillrecovery funds. Publicpiers in Pensacola Beach,Naples, Tampa Bay andother communities couldbenefit from constructionof small artificial reefswithin casting distance ofthe pier to improvehabitat, and increasespecies diversity and angleropportunity. Piers can be enhanced with the addition of fishcleaning and bait cutting stations, as well as improvedlighting and restroom facilities, bait and tackle shops andincreased access for the disabled.
Public boat launches often become overcrowded during peakfishing and boating seasons and generally lack enough
Photo Credit: Snook and Gamefish Foundation
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
22 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
parking spaces for boat trailers, especially at mixed-usefacilities that offer recreational opportunities other thanfishing. Projects that expand parking at these facilities andrepair launch ramps, docks and access roads should be a partof restoration efforts. An emergency fund should also beestablished so that timely repairs can be made to thesefacilities following hurricanes or other damaging events.
Panhandle fishermen expressed concern that identifyingareas to construct new boat launches will be difficult becauseof the extensive private ownership of waterfront property inFlorida. An effort should be made to work with private landowners and to utilize state-owned property to buildadditional boat launches and public access areas to alleviatepressure on overcrowded facilities.
Florida has committed approximately $2.5 million from earlyNRDA restoration funds to restore and improve the Bob SikesPier and Big Lagoon State Park Boat Ramp, both in EscambiaCounty. Similar and larger-scale efforts should beimplemented for other facilities throughout Florida’s GulfCoast.
expansion of angler/Boater educationPrograms and Youth outreach
Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and ahost of conservation organizations and volunteers haveinvested money and countless man hours in hosting fishingseminars throughout the state for the last two decades.According to FWC, more than 52,000 children and 43,000parents have attended one-day children’s fishing seminarssince 1996 that teach everything from fish identification toknot tying and angler etiquette. Oil spill recovery fundsshould be invested to expand this program and others like it.
Efforts to encourage safe and conscientious boating shouldbe expanded as well. Maps of sea grass beds, reefs and othersensitive areas should be printed and distributed at marinasand public boat launches, especially to visiting boat rentersunfamiliar with local waters, in an effort to limit damagefrom groundings and propellers.
Finally, efforts to educate anglers on how to handle fish forrelease could increase the survival rates of manyrecreationally-important fish species such as tarpon, snook,red snapper, redfish and grouper.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 23
AlabamaOrange Beach, Ala., often is referred to asthe “Red Snapper Capital of the World.”The state’s Department of Conservationand Natural Resources Marine ResourcesDivision oversees the most aggressiveartificial reef program in the UnitedStates with approximately 17,000 near-shore and offshore habitats built sincethe early 1950s. A host of materials havebeen used to construct these reefsincluding bridge rubble, limestone, decommissioned ships,military tanks, reef balls and welded iron cages. Recreationalanglers and state conservation officials proudly say thiseffort has ensured Alabamians have access to some of thebest reef fish angling in the world.
In addition to the prolific reef fishery, the Alabama coasthosts world-class big game fishing and some of the country’slargest offshore fishing tournaments. Anglers from across theworld come to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach each summerin pursuit of marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and other pelagicspecies.
Adding to the wealth of fisheries in Alabama, the MobileDelta and its 200,000 acres of freshwater and brackishswamps and marshes form the northern rim of Mobile Bayand are the nursery grounds for a host of saltwater sportfish,forage fish and crustaceans. The freshwater from the deltamixes with the saltwater of the Gulf forming a rich estuaryand creating a good environment for speckled trout, redfish,flounder, oysters, crabs, shrimp and other recreational andcommercially important species.
All 60 miles of Gulf shoreline in Alabama, including DauphinIsland, the state’s largest barrier island, experienced somelevel of oiling in the months and years following theDeepwater Horizon disaster, and all fishing in the Gulf off theAlabama coast was closed in the spring and summer of 2010.In addition to repairing the damage to habitat and fisheriescaused by the spill, recovery and restoration dollars can go along way in helping address long-term ecosystemdegradation like marsh and barrier island erosion, nutrientloading in coastal estuaries and damage from hurricanes.Recovery money also can be used to sustain Alabama’sefforts to create near-shore and offshore fisheries habitat.
In many cases, the same habitat restoration efforts aimed atincreasing spawning, feeding and nursery grounds forsportfish will provide great benefit for forage fish as well.
habitat Restoration and improvementBeneficial Use of dredged spoilDauphin Island and salt marshes along western sections ofAlabama’s coast have experienced significant erosionbecause of sediment flow alterations caused by dredging theshipping channel into Mobile Harbor. Deepening andmaintaining a shipping channel to 45 feet has interrupted
flows of sediment from east to west. To help offset thedamages caused by hydrologic changes, maintenancedredging of shipping lanes and harbors should beaccompanied by the beneficial use of dredged materials toenhance the beaches of Dauphin Island, especially thewestern end which has undergone significant erosion andhurricane damage.
Delivering sediment via pipeline, hopper dredge or bargefrom channel maintenance to repair beaches and marshesdirectly, or depositing dredge spoil closer to shore to allowfor currents to distribute sediment to shorelines, will helpmake Dauphin Island sustainable and also protect andenhance salt marshes along both the Gulf and lower MobileBay. Dredge spoil from channel maintenance also should bestrategically placed in salt and brackish marshes withinMobile Bay to provide additional nursery grounds forsportfish and forage.
artificial Reef Placement and MaintenanceAlabama has built a variety of artificial reefs both inshoreand offshore from a host of materials. Of the 27 inshore reefsbuilt mostly in Mobile and Bon Secour bays, seven are projectsthat enhanced existing shell pads from oil and gas well heads.Others have been constructed with a variety of materialsincluding concrete rubble, oyster shells and building materials.In addition to providing habitat for popular sportfish species,near-shore reefs have increased oyster production andprovided valuable habitat for crabs, shrimp and other foragefish. Building additional reefs near Dauphin Island, Bayou LaBatre and other areas that are easily accessible by recreationalanglers in smaller boats will increase access to productivefishing areas for these fishermen.
Furthermore, additional offshore reefs in 30-60 feet of waterwill increase access to reef fish such as snapper, grouper andtrigger fish for anglers in 20-25 foot boats who do not havesafe access to reefs in deeper waters.
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Artificial Reef Program
24 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Reefs often subside, become covered in sediment and can bedamaged by hurricanes. Establishing a fund with oil spillrecovery dollars for long-term reef maintenance andenhancement will help sustain productive recreationalfishing in Alabama.
improved Water QualityMajor rivers that course through much of Alabama, like theMobile and Tensaw, as well as numerous smaller rivers,creeks and bayous, empty into Mobile Bay. Municipal andfarm runoff laden with excess nutrients and sediments hasnegatively affected water quality in the bay, as well asharbors, popular fishing locations and other vital fish habitat.Investment in efforts to limit excess nutrients and sedimentsentering watersheds north of Mobile Bay will improve waterquality and the long-term health of area fisheries and habitat.
living shorelines, oyster habitat Restoration Oyster reef restoration and enhancement in Mobile and BonSecour Bay can help provide quality fish habitat, stabilizesensitive marsh shorelines and improve water quality byreducing wave action and turbidity. Building reefs using avariety of cultch materials, like crushed concrete andlimestone and oyster cages and biodegradable sacks filledwith processed oyster shells, is a strategic element of severalconservation groups working to restore and enhance Gulffish and wildlife habitat.
The Nature Conservancy is working with Alabama-basedorganizations such as the Mobile Baykeeper and the AlabamaCoastal Foundation to build more than 100 miles of oysterreefs and re-establish 1,000 acres of marshes in the MobileBay area. A one-quarter mile reef was built in 2011 by using16,000 bags of recycled oyster shells deposited along theshoreline of Helen Wood Park in Mobile. Expansion andmaintenance of similar efforts can improve and sustainfisheries.
improved Fisheries Monitoring, dataCollection, Research and ManagementFisheries data Collection, stock and harvestsurveysAlabama’s aggressive artificial reef program has created anenormous amount of offshore habitat suitable for a variety offish including grouper, trigger fish, amberjack and especiallythe highly prized red snapper. Anglers and state officials havelong complained that despite their efforts to improvefisheries habitat and increase populations, the improvementsare not reflected in surveys of Gulf fish populations becauseNOAA officials largely avoid artificial reefs when conductingstock assessments.
Anglers and charter captains who participated in the Alabamaworkshop strongly urged federal fisheries officials to conductpopulation surveys on the artificial reefs. Charter captainsexpressed interest in helping work with NOAA to increase thenumber of observers on charter vessels to more accuratelydetermine where anglers are concentrating effort and thedifferent sizes and species of fish that are being caught.
Incorporating additional methods such as the use of mannedand unmanned submersible vessels to closely examine bothnatural and artificial habitats at a variety of depths can alsoincrease the accuracy of fish stock assessment.
Workshop participants also suggested the use of staterecovery dollars to improve harvest surveys so dataregarding recreational fishing will be more accurate. CurrentNOAA recreational harvest measurements have too manygaps, are not extensive enough and rely on inaccurateestimates. Investment of money coming to the state ofAlabama should be used to develop more accurate harvestsurveys, and state and federal officials should work to ensurethe data collected will be utilized by fisheries managers.
Barotrauma Reduction Alabama charter operators have expressed interest inparticipating in a pilot program to help increase survivalrates among reef fish by expanding the use of barotraumareduction devices. Investment in a fund to help offset thecosts of purchasing the barotrauma reduction devices forcharter vessels, as well as programs to help educate chartercaptains and recreational anglers on how to use the devicesand properly handle fish for release, can help increasesurvival rates for reef fish species like grouper, snapper andjacks caught from deepwater structures. Successful release ofthese fish can possibly lead to longer seasons and increasedaccess to the fishery.
health of Forage speciesThe health and productivity of shrimp, mullet, menhaden,crabs and other forage species are essential to goodsportfishing. The long-term impacts to forage species fromthe oil spill may not be fully determined for a decade ormore. Also, the impacts of water quality reductions, habitatloss, climate changes, over-harvest and other factors are notfully understood. Increasing research funding to examineforage species and determine ways to sustain and increasetheir productivity is a wise use of oil spill recovery dollars.
Recreational Fishing Business impactsand Restoration of angler interest,Confidence and accessaccurate information about health of Gulf FishMany Gulf anglers and charter captains who have fished thegulf regularly since the spill are confident in the health of thefish and contend they are safe for consumption. Fishharvested from the Gulf since the spill have been examinedand analyzed for hydrocarbons and other contaminants atlength, and the results have repeatedly concluded the fish aresafe to consume. Still, anglers, and especially charter captainswho rely on tourists from out of state for their clientele,expressed concern that a stigma exists outside the Gulf thatthe fish are not safe for consumption.
A concerted, long-term effort to communicate the results oftests on the safety of consuming Gulf seafood should includeoutreach to sportfishermen. As tests of fish continue and
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 25
examinations of the long-term impacts of the oil spill arebetter understood, efforts to make the public aware of testresults and determinations need to be increased throughpress engagement and advertising campaigns.
expansion of Free Fishing days and Youtheducation opportunitiesAlabama’s DCNR offers one free fishing day a year duringwhich anglers can fish public waters without having topurchase a fishing license. Expanding this program to twice
annually and combining it with children’s fishing seminars atpublic facilities across Alabama’s coastal waters can helpgrow involvement in sportfishing as well as increaseawareness of the need to conserve and protect coastalresources. Although youth are not required to purchasefishing licenses, this extra day can encourage families toparticipate more in outdoor recreation.
Free fishing days attract more families to marinas, tackleshops, rental properties and other coastal businesses,increasing economic activity.
Master angler Certification ProgramThe DCNR conducts a very popular master angler programfor trophy freshwater fish caught in public waters. Sixteenfreshwater species are included in the master anglerprogram. Anglers who weigh in fish that meet minimumlengths receive a certificate recognizing the catch and a decalfor their truck or boat. The program helps keep anglersengaged and also helps the department track how and wheretrophy fish are being caught.
Expanding the program to include saltwater species can havesimilar positive results in helping increase anglerengagement as well as tracking how, when and where trophysaltwater fish have been caught. Master angler programs alsocan be expanded to include angler education such as angleretiquette, fish handling and species identification.
Photo Credit: Capt. Peace Marvel
26 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
MississippiMississippi has the shortest coastline of anyof the five Gulf states but still offers some ofthe greatest sportfishing opportunities anddiversity of species in the region. Extensivebays, river deltas, coastal marshes andbarrier islands line the Mississippi coast,providing tremendous habitat forspeckled trout, redfish, flounder and othernearshore species. Mississippi’s coast is also apopular launching spot for anglers seeking offshorereef fish like red snapper and amberjack as well as hard-fighting king mackerel and cobia.
All four of Mississippi’s barrier islands experienced heavyoiling in the months following the explosion that caused theDeepwater Horizon spill, and Mississippi Sound was one ofthe most heavily oiled areas in the entire Gulf. The oil spillonly added to the injuries the Mississippi coast sustained fiveyears earlier when Hurricane Katrina leveled marinas anddocks and ravaged coastal habitat with record storm surgesthat exceeded 25 feet. Oil spill recovery dollars investedwisely can help Mississippi’s coastal communities andcoastal anglers restore, expand and sustain economies andhabitats for generations to come.
habitat Restoration and improvement oyster Reef Restoration and expansionOysters play an enormous role in providing habitat alongMississippi’s coast for a variety of sportfish and their forage.Oysters are also a very important commercially harvestedspecies, especially in the Pass Christian and Bay St. Louisareas. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources longhas aided oyster production and harvest by increasing thesize of public oyster beds by depositing limestone andseeding cultch with spat. In order to help restore and expandsportfish habitat through oyster habitat, the importance ofoyster reefs as essential fish habitat rather than simply acommercially harvestable commodity needs to beemphasized. Oyster reefs don’t need to be planted simply forcommercial harvest in order to provide tremendousecological and economic benefits in Mississippi.
To help oyster beds recover from the cumulative effects ofdrought, hurricanes, floods and the oil spill over the lastdecade, the DMR deposited 34,000 cubic yards of crushedlimestone and another 30,000 cubic yards of processedoyster shells to re-establish public harvest areas near PassChristian. The expansion and rehabilitation of oyster reefsalso will expand sportfish habitat and opportunities forfishermen.
Mississippi’s oyster reef creation and enhancement is largelylocated in areas from Bay St. Louis west to the Louisiana line,where salinity levels are more conducive to production.Expanding cultch plantings into eastern portions of thestate’s coast would help expand productive oyster andsportfish habitat and improve water quality. Using oysterreefs to help stabilize marsh shorelines is a wise investmentof recovery funds as well.
inshore artificial ReefsMississippi’s DMR, in conjunction with the Mississippi GulfFishing Banks, a nonprofit organization that works toprocure and deploy artificial reef materials, has establishednearly 70 inshore artificial reefs in accessible waters forrecreational anglers. These existing reefs are often damagedby hurricanes and are in need of funds for monitoring,maintenance and expansion.
MGFB representatives said their organization is flush withavailable materials, from concrete culverts and other scrapconcrete to out-of-service tugboats and other vessels, whichcan be used to create reefs at a variety of depths. However,deployment has been limited by a lack of funds to transportmaterials. Investment of oil spill recovery dollars indeployment of available reef materials would help expandfisheries habitat and recreational fishing opportunities.
MGFB and CCA Mississippi representatives said reefconstruction efforts, especially in Mississippi Sound, alsohave been limited because of uncertainties about migrationand feeding habits of the endangered Gulf sturgeon.Investing recovery funds to examine sturgeon feeding andmigration patterns and the impact of constructing reefs inareas where sturgeon feed could lead to expedited approvalsof reef creation and expansion in Mississippi waters.
offshore artificial Reefs Mississippi has 15 offshore artificial reef sites, ranging in sizefrom three to 10,000 acres. Four of these sites are locatedinside the barrier islands and were constructed usingconcrete rubble. The other sites were built with either steelship hulls or limestone and concrete reef balls and cones.Similar to the nearshore reefs, offshore reefs requiremonitoring and maintenance and could be expanded andenhanced with deployment of additional materials. Also,additional sites for new reef construction should beidentified to expand habitat and fishing opportunities.
Water Quality Mississippi’s coastal rivers, from the Pearl to the Jordan andTchoutacabouffa, form rich estuaries lined with fertile
Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 27
coastal marshes as they wind their ways into coastal baysadjacent to the Gulf. These rivers are plagued by many of thesame artificial nutrient loading issues that are affecting otherrivers throughout the Gulf Coast. Nitrates and phosphatesfrom fertilizers, farm runoff and septic tank wastewater areimpairing coastal rivers and bays. Efforts should be made toreduce artificial fertilizers entering watersheds that lead toMississippi’s coast, and municipal improvements are neededto correct leaking septic tanks and other nutrient-loadedrunoff concerns.
improved fishery monitoring, datacollection, research and managementFish Migration Tracking devicesResearchers with the University of Southern Mississippi’sGulf Coast Research Laboratory encouraged the expansion oftracking devices implanted in popular sportfish to be able totrack migratory, feeding and reproductive habits. Very little isknown about how far nearshore species like speckled trout,redfish or flounder move around, where they move to, whattimes of year they move and why they move. Similarly, verylittle is known about the migratory patterns of popularoffshore species such as cobia, king mackerel, tuna and redsnapper. Answering these questions can potentially helpresearchers and fisheries policy managers set moreappropriate season dates and regulations.
Basin, which is immediately adjacent to Mississippi Sound.Tags were also placed in bull sharks, redfish and Gulfsturgeon. The program was launched in the fall of 2012, anddata is collected monthly from buoys located at known fishpassages, on existing docks and pilings and anchored to thebottom. Tracking has demonstrated how speckled troutrespond to heavy rain events and subsequent drops insalinity levels and other seasonal migration patterns.Investment of oil spill recovery dollars to establish thefacilities, methodology and devices for a similar trackingprogram in Mississippi is recommended, as is a fund to beused for repair and maintenance of monitoring equipmentand the long-term viability of the program.
Fisheries science and stock enhancement CentersIn addition to aiding fish telemetry tagging and fish trackingefforts in Mississippi, fish science and stock enhancementcenters can conduct laboratory studies on changes in climate,salinity levels and how fish respond to different habitattypes. Centers also can help Mississippi fisheries recoverfrom environmental changes such as freezes and lowdissolved oxygen events, especially those brought on byhurricanes. Any efforts to stock recreationally-importantspecies should be conducted in concert with habitatimprovements and only if suitable forage fish levels exist.
Any restocking efforts, especially near-shore and inshorespecies like speckled trout, flounder and redfish, shouldensure the genetic integrity of the existing fish populations inindividual estuaries.
Recreational fishing business impactsand restoration of angler interest,confidence and accessPromotion of Mississippi saltwatersportfishingThe Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s InitialComprehensive Plan specifically allows states to use theirshares of money coming from the RESTORE Act to promoterecreational fishing. Mississippi anglers and charter captainshave expressed concern that their home state has promotedother tourism opportunities like golf courses and beaches
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
More data also can help determine the kinds of habitatcertain fish utilize at different stages of life and if habitatrestoration efforts are effective. Fisheries stock enhancementcenters in Mississippi can work with universities andresearch labs across the Gulf to help standardize the use oftracking tags embedded in fish of various ages and species.Embedding telemetry tags, along with establishing an arrayof tracking buoys across the Gulf to help monitor movement,will give fisheries scientists a better method for examiningthe life cycles of fish.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologistsworking with researchers at Louisiana State Universityconducted a telemetry-tagging and monitoring program,primarily with speckled trout, in the Lake Pontchartrain
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Artificial Reef Program
28 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
but never made a concerted effort to promote the state’sunique and exciting sportfishing.
Investment of a share of Mississippi’s restoration money in aconcerted effort to promote the health of the fishery andopportunities for year-round recreational fishing will helpsustain and grow the industry and expand the state’seconomy. Advertising should focus on attracting anglers fromother states, especially those outside the Gulf region.
expansion and Repair of Public Boat launchesand other access PointsMississippi workshop participants noted that the state andlocal governments have done a good job of building publicboat launches and fishing piers. However, public boat
launches often are located at parks that serve as multiple-userecreational facilities, and parking for boat trailers can belimited when facilities are hosting events. Expansion ofparking lots, docks and other facilities can helpaccommodate more anglers, particularly during spring andsummer weekends when demand for access increases.
Launches, docks, piers and public parks are also susceptibleto damage from tropical storms and hurricanes and can beunusable for months after storm events. Investment of oilspill recovery dollars into a fund that can be accessed quicklyfor repairs after a storm can help sportfishing activityresume sooner and help restore much needed economicactivity to coastal communities.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 29
LouisianaLouisiana’s slogan is“Sportsman’s Paradise.” Fewplaces in the world offer thevariety and abundance ofsaltwater sportfishingopportunities like those in theBayou State. All in the same day– and out of the same boat –anglers can catch largemouth bass and redfishin the passes of the Mississippi River, take a short trip intothe Gulf of Mexico to find red snapper, cobia and kingmackerel then push a little farther offshore for tuna, wahooand even blue and white marlin.
The bayous, lakes, bays, marshes, swamps and barrierislands built over the last several thousand years by theshifting courses of the mouth of the Mississippi River providethe perfect mix of near-shore habitat to attract populationsof redfish, speckled trout, flounder, black drum and otherpopular sportfish in populations unrivaled by any other statein the country.
The interaction between the nutrients of the waters of theMississippi River mixing with the salty waters of the Gulf ofMexico creates a unique environment ideally suited forabundant production of a variety of commercially andrecreationally important fisheries, including what havehistorically been the nation’s largest shrimp, blue crab andoyster harvests. The rich sediments deposited by the riverare the base for Louisiana’s wetlands and islands, feeding adiverse food chain and providing the nutrients needed forabundant forage fish like mullet, menhaden, crabs, croaker,Gulf killifish and a host of other food sources for largerpredators. They also provide the nursery grounds utilized bysportfish and forage species.
The Mississippi River spilling into the Gulf also helpsLouisiana support one of the nation’s richest offshore andblue water fisheries. Yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahooabound off Louisiana’s coast, as do a host of reef fishincluding a variety of snapper, grouper, amberjack andtrigger fish.
Unfortunately, many of the habitats that make Louisiana’scoast so unique and abundant are disappearing or beingdestroyed at a rapid pace that is threatening the long-termsustainability of the Gulf’s richest fishery. Levees and damsalong the lower Mississippi River, built largely in the wake ofthe Great Flood of 1927 to protect communities fromriverine flooding, have isolated the life-building fresh watersand the essential sediments needed to sustain deltaicwetlands and barrier islands from spilling out into themarshes during annual floods. More than 200 rivers, bayousand natural crevasses helped distribute Mississippi Riverwater into Louisiana’s coastal wetlands before large-scalelevee construction. Now, fewer than 20 waterways spreadriver water into these areas.
Without the sediment once supplied by the river, wetlandssubside and gradually convert to open water. The samelevees that isolate wetlands from annual floods are part of astrategy that also employs jetties and wing dams to increasewater velocity to help the river “self-scour” sediments andreduce the dredging costs to keep the river open todeepwater vessels. Sediments that could be replenishing andbuilding coastal wetlands are funneled into the deep watersof the Gulf of Mexico where they provide virtually no benefitsto fish and wildlife. The overwhelming majority of thesediment dredged from the river for navigation is purposelydumped in deep water rather than being used to build andenhance habitat.
The isolation of the river is the major culprit in Louisiana’scoastal land loss crisis, but it is not the only one. Theconstruction of canals to assist oil and gas exploration andimprove shipping access to inland ports like New Orleans,Houma and Lake Charles have drastically altered thehydrology of Louisiana’s coast and precipitated drastichabitat loss and saltwater intrusion into brackish andfreshwater marshes and swamps. In all, coastal Louisiana haslost nearly 2,000 square miles of prime fish and wildlifehabitat, reducing the Mississippi River Delta’s ability to serveits vital role as nursery grounds for sportfish and foragespecies that help populate the entire Gulf. The fastest land-loss rate in the world is in Louisiana, as is 90 percent of thenation’s coastal wetland loss.
Offshore fishing in Louisiana has been impaired for decadesby the formation of a dead zone in the northern Gulf, theconsequence of algae blooms formed by excessive nutrientsfrom farm and municipal runoff entering the waterthroughout the Mississippi River Basin. Large areas ofoxygen-depleted water are formed low in the water columnas algae dies, sinks and decays. The problem is particularlyacute during the summer when higher water temperaturesincrease algae production. This coincides with the mostactive fishing months for Gulf recreational fishermen. Thedead zone is caused by nutrient-loaded river water andoccurs primarily on the bottom, in deeper waters of the Gulf,where there is less wave action to increase dissolved oxygen.
Louisiana’s offshore reef habitats have declined in recentyears as well, due largely to policies that require the removalof oil and gas platforms that no longer are being used.Platforms or “rigs” not only facilitate the extraction of oil andnatural gas; many serve as extremely productive habitat for avariety of fish species, especially snapper, grouper and otherreef fishes. Because the structures span the entire watercolumn, the diversity of fish, corals and other marine life thatutilize the platforms is different and more diverse than otherartificial reefs that generally rise only 10-30 feet above theocean bottom.
The Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank about 50 milesfrom Louisiana. The first onshore impacts of the gushing wellwere seen and felt along Louisiana’s beaches and coastalmarshes as thick crude coated miles and miles of beachesand marsh grass through the late spring and summer of
30 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
2010. Approximately 200 miles of Louisiana’s coast wereoiled in 2010, with about 150 of those miles considered“heavily oiled” – more than the other Gulf states combined.About 140 miles of sensitive marshes were oiled as well inLouisiana, making cleanup very difficult and damaging. Eventwo years post spill, areas along Louisiana’s coast were stillconsidered “heavily oiled,” and some popular sportfishingdestinations were still periodically closed to fishing becauseof contamination.
Oil spill recovery dollars from the various funding sourcesnot only will help the state recover from both short-termhabitat losses from the spill and potential long-term impactsto fisheries; these funds also will help stem the loss of criticalwetlands, barrier islands and other habitat that has plaguedLouisiana for nearly a century.
habitat Restoration and improvementRiver diversions to Restore Coastal WetlandsReconnecting the Mississippi River to its deltaic wetlandsthrough diversions that carry sediment and freshwater hasbeen widely accepted by the scientific community as part of aviable strategy to curb coastal land loss in southeastLouisiana and sustain fisheries. Without the ability to directsediment suspended in the Mississippi River during peakflooding periods, most geologists and wetlands experts agreethat Louisiana’s coastal marshes have little chance of keepingup with subsidence and will continue to sink and wash awayat a rapid pace. The ability to direct those suspendedsediments at key periods when sediment loads are highest inthe river, replicating the natural flood cycles of the riverwhen it was connected to coastal wetlands, is the onlylegitimate chance for long-term sustainability of coastalmarshes in Louisiana.
In addition to helping deliver sediments to sustain and buildnew wetlands, diversions also can help re-supply nutrientsthat are constantly leeching out of coastal marshes. Thesenutrients help feed the bottom of the food chain, which feedsthe forage fish and, in turn, the predatory fish recreational
anglers like to catch. In areas where water from theMississippi River can interact with wetlands and mix withsaltwater, the nutrients are resupplied. Where there is nosupply of river water, marshes leech remaining nutrientsfrom the soil originally supplied by the river when themarshes were created until no more nutrients remain.
The state’s 2012 Comprehensive Coastal Restoration andHurricane Protection Master Plan calls for the constructionof several large-scale diversions to be located strategically onthe east and west sides of the Mississippi River below NewOrleans, as well as diversions from the lower AtchafalayaRiver designed to sustain marshes in western TerrebonneParish. Other smaller diversions are planned to help improvewater quality in swamps in the northern reaches of coastalestuaries. The plan envisions diversions working in concertwith other restoration efforts to end coastal land loss inLouisiana in the next half century.
Some smaller-scale controlled and uncontrolled diversionsfrom the Mississippi River are currently operating. The twoprimary controlled diversions are at Caernarvon in St.Bernard Parish, east of the river, and Davis Pond, west of theriver in St. Charles Parish. Both are designed to move 10,000cubic feet per second of river water at peak flows to controlsalinities for fisheries production. Generally, these diversionsare operated far below capacity and have minimal land-building capabilities. Uncontrolled diversions include theWest Bay Diversion near Head of Passes on the west side ofthe Mississippi River, which moves approximately 50,000 cfsat peak flow and is building land, and several smallercrevasses in the jetties along the east side of the river belowPointe-a-la-Hache that are helping create new wetlands aswell.
Many saltwater sportfishers are concerned that influxes offreshwater will come with multiple larger diversions,decimating saltwater fish habitat and permanently displacingpopular species like speckled trout and redfish. Fisheriesbiologists have generally concluded, after examining fishbehavior in areas where existing diversions operate, thatdiversions do not permanently displace saltwater fish but docause species less tolerant of freshwater, such as speckledtrout, to move to areas where salinities are higher duringpeak diversion flows. Once freshwater flows are reduced andsalinities increase, speckled trout return to those areas inabundant numbers. Redfish, flounder and black drum aremore tolerant of freshwater and in general thrive and grow atfaster rates in areas that have existing diversion outflows.Examinations of the outfall area near Caernarvon haveshown no decreases and some increases in forage speciessuch as blue crabs, white shrimp, mullet and menhaden.Saltwater species also feed on freshwater forage species likeshad, crawfish and a variety of sunfishes in these areas.
The sediment diversions prescribed in the State Master Plancall for the diversion of much larger water volumes thanexisting controlled diversions. Comprehensive long-termimpacts, both positive and negative to fisheries, are yet to befully determined. In general, biologists believe saltwater
Photo Credit: Capt. Sam Barbera
Saltwater and freshwater fish live in the same locations and strike the
same lures in many places along Louisiana’s coast.
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 31
fisheries will return to their more historic ranges duringdiversion operations and return to healthier more productivehabitats after salinity levels increase. Existing habitatdegradation and saltwater intrusion conditions have allowedsaltwater fish to inhabit areas far inland of the Gulf of Mexicothat would be largely fresh and brackish in a healthy delta.
Research needs to be conducted to examine diversionoperation regimes regarding saltwater fisheries productionand habitat. State officials also need to keep the saltwaterrecreational community engaged in discussions abouttimeframes for construction and operation, potential plans,results of studies conducted to examine fisheries impacts andother relevant data regarding diversions. Spill recovery fundsbeing distributed by the National Fish and WildlifeFoundation in Louisiana can be used for the research,engineering, design and construction of sediment diversions.Additional investment of oil spill recovery funds isrecommended for development of optimal operation plansfor diversions that will maximize sediment delivery andhabitat building capacity while minimizing, to the extentpracticable, negative impacts to saltwater fish. Plans shouldinclude continued examination of impacts to saltwaterfishing and the saltwater fishing community.
Barrier island and headland Restoration Louisiana’s barrier island chains and beaches provide greatfish habitat and extensive recreational fishing opportunitieswhile serving as a first line of defense against surges fromtropical storms and hurricanes for salt, brackish andintermediate marshes and coastal communities. Like othercoastal habitat in Louisiana, barrier islands, from theChandeleur Islands in Breton Sound west through theBarataria, Timbalier and Terrebonne Basins, have beendecimated over the last century. Hurricanes and otherstorms, lack of sediment supply and loss of interior wetlandsincreasing tidal prisms have all contributed to reducingbarrier island habitat.
Louisiana created a barrier island restoration program andhas been working with federal agencies through the CoastalWetlands, Planning, Protection and Restoration Act to restorea number of barrier islands over the last two decades. Moreeffort is needed, not only to restore critical barrier islandsand headlands, but also to maintain the restoration efforts.Generally, adding sand and sediment to barrier islands andtheir back barrier marshes, using dredging materials fromoffshore sediment deposits or materials dredged fromnavigation channels, extends an island’s life by about 20years. A robust maintenance fund established with oil spillrecovery dollars will help ensure that the islands aremaintained for the long term.
State officials have agreed to invest $320 million of earlyNRDA funds in barrier island restoration both east and westof the Mississippi River. Historically, barrier islandrestoration has been focused west of the Mississippi River.Increasing efforts to restore the Chandeleur Islands canprovide tremendous benefit to the recreational fishingcommunity.
Photo Credit: NOAA
The Atchafalaya Delta in Louisiana is North America’s only building
river delta. Diversions from the Mississippi River hope to mimic the
Atchafalaya’s land building.
Photo Credit: John Balance
Restoration of smaller islands north of Barrierisland ChainsIn addition to rebuilding the islands and headlands thatseparate the Gulf from sounds, lakes and bays, therestoration of smaller islands inside of coastal lakes and bayswill have tremendous positive impacts on fisheries andwildlife habitat and increase fishing opportunities. Smallerislands like Cat Island and Queen Bess Island in BaratariaBay, and Casse Tete Island and Brush Island in Timbalier Bay,have subsided and eroded over the last several decades. Insome cases, like Independence Island in Barataria Bay,islands have been lost completely. These islands provideessential habitat for popular sportfish and forage species andestablish habitat in largely open-water systems. In order toreduce the costs of deploying resources to specifically
Raccoon Island is the westernmost barrier island in Louisiana’s
32 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
rebuild these smaller islands, restoration should beconducted at the same time and using the same equipmentand sediment sources as projects to rebuild nearby largerbarrier islands.
Marsh Restoration and Creation Using dredgedsedimentThe fastest way to slow Louisiana’s coastal wetland loss is torepair existing wetlands and recreate wetlands that havebeen lost by pumping in dredged sediment. Louisiana’sDepartment of Natural Resources and Coastal Protection andRestoration Authority worked with federal agencies, like theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, EPA and NaturalResource Conservation Service, to rebuild thousands of acresof degraded and subsided marsh in the last two decades byusing dredged materials. In recent years, innovative projectsthat mine sediment from the Mississippi River and transportit as much as 30 miles or more via pipeline have helpedrestore marshes and barrier islands in areas west of theMississippi River. In other areas, critical marsh landbridgesand lake and bay shorelines have been restored by miningsediments from broad open water areas and pumping thematerials onto degraded marsh. The 2012 State CoastalMaster Plan calls for nearly $20 billion to be invested indirect sediment placement marsh creation projects over thenext half century. Utilizing oil spill recovery funds to furtherthose prescribed efforts is vital to constructing andenhancing marshes in the coming years in order to helppreserve and sustain the remaining coastal estuaries inLouisiana.
Beneficial Use of dredged Materials The lower Mississippi River and other critical navigationchannels in Louisiana, such as the Houma Navigation Canaland Calcasieu Ship Channel, are regularly and extensivelydredged in order to ensure safe passage of goods andservices in and out of Louisiana’s many ports. The Corps ofEngineers estimates that generally 50-100 million cubicyards of soil is dredged from Louisiana shipping channelseach year. Despite Louisiana’s overwhelming need to utilizedredged materials to rebuild marshes and barrier islands,very little of the materials removed during channelmaintenance are beneficially used to offset habitat loss. Statecoastal officials have estimated that less than 20 percent ofthe available materials are beneficially used, while the restare generally dumped in deep water areas off Louisiana’scoast or used to block passes in the Mississippi River thataren’t primary shipping arteries. Corps of Engineers officialsoften site policies that require dredged spoil be disposed ofin the least expensive manner. Expansion of beneficial use ispossible if dredging budgets are increased or if Louisianaagrees to use state funds to offset the additional cost ofplacing spoil rather than disposing of it. Oil spill recoveryfunds coming to the Corps of Engineers should be used, inpart, for beneficial use projects. Also, any additional dredgingthe Corps pays for with oil spill recovery dollars shouldrequire the beneficial use of the spoil.
inshore artificial ReefsThe Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries hasworked very successfully with CCA Louisiana, the LakePontchartrain Basin Foundation and other conservationgroups as well as private companies to develop severalinshore reefs in many popular fishing areas across the state’scoast.
Smaller islands like this one north of Grand Isle, La., are important
habitat for fish and wildlife.
Photo Credit: CCA Louisiana
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 33
Prior to 2008, the only materials that could be used to buildinshore reefs in Louisiana were very small pieces oflimestone because shrimp trawls could be dragged over itwithout snagging. Recently, however, the use of additionalmaterials was expanded to include concrete rubble, bricksand other available materials. Thanks to cooperationbetween CCA Louisiana and state agencies, two popular reefswere constructed between 2009 and 2011 in LakePontchartrain using concrete from Interstate 10 bridgesacross the lake that were severely damaged by HurricaneKatrina. CCA also worked with Wildlife and Fisheries andprivate donors to build reefs in other popular fishing areas inPlaquemines, Jefferson, Terrebonne, Cameron, Vermilion andother coastal parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation worked with LSUSea Grant to develop productive reefs using concrete reefballs deployed in strategic locations throughout the lake.These efforts have proven successful and are extensivelyutilized by recreational anglers. Expanding this program andfunding the long-term maintenance of existing and futurereefs is a wise use of oil spill recovery dollars and will helprepair both fisheries habitat damage as well as loss of accessto the fishery.
offshore artificial Reefs, “Rigs-to-Reefs” Louisiana’s offshore artificial reef program is based almostentirely on the use of oil and gas platforms. Approximately3,000 oil and gas rigs are in the waters off Louisiana’s coast.The standing, operating rigs serve as extremely valuablehabitat to a wide range of fish, corals, crustaceans and othersea life. They also are utilized by sportfishermen targeting avariety of reef fish as well as highly migratory species.
Federal policy requires the removal of these platforms asthey become decommissioned and, since the DeepwaterHorizon spill, efforts to force removal of the rigs hasdramatically increased. Also, oil and gas companies incur thehigh costs of maintenance and bear the burden of liability forhaving the rigs in place, increasing their desire to remove thestructures. Valuable reef habitat disappears as rigs areremoved.
In the mid-1980s, Louisiana fisheries managers and the statelegislature recognized the value of keeping rig materials inthe water as artificial reefs and created the Artificial ReefDevelopment Fund, which allows oil and gas companies tosave on the cost of removing rigs by donating funds andmaterials to the state to build reefs. Expansion of thisprogram, protection of program funds and working throughfederal policies and user group conflicts that impedeexpansion are essential to maintaining Louisiana’sproductive offshore fishery. Also, the use of additionalmaterials such as reef balls and decommissioned vessels toreplace removed oil rigs should be incorporated in reefplanning and construction efforts.
living shorelines, oyster ReefsOyster reefs play an invaluable role in providing habitat forsportfish and forage fish, protecting sensitive marshes andimproving water quality. Louisiana’s efforts to enhanceoyster reefs have focused almost entirely on developing acommercially harvestable product. Since any efforts to buildoyster reefs result in more habitat for popular sportfish,expanding commercially-harvestable reefs has increasedrecreational fishing opportunity as well. In addition to thecontinuation and expansion of these efforts, reefconstruction should be focused on the role oysters can playin helping stem marsh loss and protecting shorelines.
Several species of reef dwellers like this gag grouper live on oil and
gas platforms off Louisiana’s coast.
Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy has built miles of shoreline protection using
oyster cages like this reef behind Grand Isle.
Louisiana’s coastal master plan calls for the extensive use ofoyster reefs as shoreline protection, especially to help restorehabitat damaged and destroyed by the construction andoperation of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. Since early2010, The Nature Conservancy has worked extensively withpublic and private partners to build more than three miles ofoyster reefs as shoreline protection in both Grand Isle and St.Bernard Parish using metal cages filled with processedoyster shells. The areas became productive fisheries habitatwithin weeks of the cages being installed.
Expanding these efforts will help increase fisheriesproduction and oyster spat production, as well as play aninvaluable role in helping sustain and restore coastalmarshes.
Photo Credit: Chris Macaluso
34 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
improved Fishery Monitoring, dataCollection, Research and ManagementFisheries science and stock enhancementCentersLouisiana has proposed construction of two fisheries stockenhancement centers as part of its early NRDA project list:one in Lake Charles that will focus on research on speckledtrout, redfish and flounder and another in Pointe-a-la-Hachein Plaquemines Parish that will focus on forage species. Thesportfishing community at large supports construction ofthese facilities. The primary focus should be on researchingthe effects of habitat loss, water temperature changes,changes in salinities, impacts of hydrocarbons anddispersants, genetics, migration and spawning habits. Whereand when appropriate, the centers also can help enhance fishor forage stocks. Louisiana’s enhancement centers shouldcooperate and collaborate with similar centers in otherstates across the Gulf to share information.
One of the primary concerns for long-term success andsustainability of the stock enhancement centers is funding.Long-term funding strategies should be determined beforefacilities are built. Guaranteed long-term funding of researchpersonnel and facilities maintenance should be part of anyrecovery efforts.
louisiana offshore harvest Permit Program In an effort to get a more precise accounting of the number offishermen harvesting offshore fish such as tuna, billfish,grouper, snapper and amberjack, Louisiana began requiringall anglers fishing off the state’s coast to obtain an offshoreharvest permit. The permit can be obtained in many ways,including downloading an application to a smartphone.There is no cost for obtaining the permit, but fishermen arerequired to submit a phone number and email address toallow managers to contact them throughout the course of the year.
State officialsstated manytimes throughout2013 that theybelieved thisprogramprovided moreaccurateinformationabout anglereffort and harvestof targetedspecies thanfederal efforts tosurvey anglers.State wildlifeofficials alsostated that thesuccess of theoffshore harvest
permit program will allow Louisiana to use its own data,which can be evaluated and analyzed more quickly thaninformation collected in federal sampling methods.Maintaining and expanding this program, adding staff toevaluate the information and updating software will takeinvestment of conservation dollars. Using funds aimed atimproving fisheries data collection and angler education tomaintain and expand the offshore harvest permit program isa wise use of recovery funds.
expansion of Fish Tagging ProgramsLDWF, working with researchers at LSU, developed atelemetry tagging program to track the movement ofspeckled trout, redfish, bull sharks and Gulf sturgeon in theLake Pontchartrain Basin. Recreational anglers were asked toparticipate in tagging the speckled trout by catching fish anddelivering them live to biologists who inserted the tags.Tracking buoys are anchored in strategic locationsthroughout Lake Pontchartrain and its passes into LakeBorgne to monitor fish movement.
Determining the movements of popular recreational species,like speckled trout and redfish and also endangered specieslike Gulf sturgeon, can help fisheries biologists betterunderstand the impacts of water temperature, forage fishavailability, salinity levels, seasonal migration, spawninghabits and other important data. Expansion of the telemetrytagging into other basins in Louisiana and to include otherpopular sportfishing species can help gather vitalinformation and improve the health of fisheries in Louisiana.
CCA Louisiana has also worked with LDWF to help develop asmall finfish tagging program that relies on volunteers tocatch, tag, record the vital information and release the fish.As those fish are recaptured, the information is relayed tostate fisheries managers to help track migration patterns.Sustaining and expanding this effort can help increaseavailable scientific data on popular sportfish species.
Recreational Fishing Business impactsand Restoration of angler interest,Confidence and accessexpansion of existing Public Boat Ramps andnew Public Boat RampsWhile Louisiana state agencies, as well as parishes,municipalities and levee districts, have made a concertedeffort to build public boat launches over the last 30 years,many of the facilities lack adequate parking spaces and goyears without repair, especially after hurricanes. Severalpopular fishing communities lack public boat launch facilitiesaltogether. Establishing a fund with oil spill recovery dollarson both the state and local levels to help repair agingfacilities and especially make quick repairs to facilities afterhurricane damage will help sustain local economies.
Also, new locations for public boat ramps should beidentified by state, parish and municipal officials to helpexpand public access to popular fishing destinations. In
Photo Credit: Capt. Peace Marvel
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 35
summer of 2013, state wildlife and fisheries officials andLafourche Parish agreed to construct a new public boatlaunch in Leeville, a very popular South Lafourche saltwaterfishing destination. This new facility will expand angleropportunity while benefiting local bait and tackle shops,motels, camp and boat rental agencies and other localbusinesses. Similar facilities in popular locations likeCocodrie, Dulac, Delacroix, Pointe-aux-Chenes, Buras, Lafitteand others will expand fishing opportunities and boost localeconomies.
Repairing existing Public Fishing Piers andConstruction and Maintenance of new PiersSimilar to public boat launches, Louisiana’s state and localagencies have worked to build numerous public fishing piersin popular destinations like Grand Isle and LakePontchartrain. However, those facilities often are heavilydamaged by hurricanes and rendered unusable forsometimes as long as a year or more after sustaining damage.St. Tammany Parish worked with state agencies and fishingconservation groups to build a public pier in Slidell on LakePontchartrain using remaining spans from Interstate 10bridges damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In August of 2012,the pier and its access road were damaged by HurricaneIsaac. More than a year later, full repairs had not been made,and the pier remained inaccessible to the public. Creating afund using oil spill recovery dollars that can help addressdamage like this and quickly return public facilities to usablecondition can help boost local economies and expand fishingopportunity.
Existing piers are heavily used when operable and arepopular places to pursue finfish as well as crabs. Buildingpublic piers in additional locations across Louisiana’s coastcan expand access and attract visitors to coastal
communities. A public pier has been suggested for the beachat the Fourchon in Lafourche Parish. Also, Terrebonne Parishofficials have considered incorporating public fishingfacilities as part of the Morganza to the Gulf levee system.State and local officials should engage fishermen andsportfishing conservation groups to help identify additionalareas for public pier locations, and those facilities should bedeveloped in coming years.
louisiana saltwater series FishingTournamentsThe Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and theLouisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation started a seriesof saltwater fishing tournaments in 2010 designed to gatherinformation about popular sportfish like redfish, speckledtrout, tarpon and tuna, as well as increase public excitementand engagement in tournament fishing. All fish caught inLouisiana Saltwater Series tournaments are weighed,measured, tagged and released, and all information is usedby fisheries biologists to help monitor the health of thefishery. Sustaining and expanding this popular program is awise use of oil spill recovery dollars.
Comprehensive Management of Public Beachesand other access areasLouisiana has few readily accessible public beaches forfishing. One of the most popular is Elmer’s Island inLafourche Parish because it is a public wildlife recreationarea, has a maintained access road and allows automobiletraffic on the beach. Elmer’s Island was one of the state’smost heavily oiled beaches and was closed after HurricaneIsaac washed additional oil onto the beach in August 2012. Acomprehensive plan should be developed to manage, patrol,repair and clean up Elmer’s Island and other public beachesfor decades to come to ensure quality places for anglers andbeach goers to enjoy Louisiana’s resources.
expanding angler education opportunities LDWF worked with outdoor retailers and conservationgroups to develop some unique programs designed toeducate young anglers and women about various aspects offishing and fisheries management. The Women in the Wildprogram offers seminars for women to learn basics like tyingon lures, casting, cleaning fish and fisheries identification.They also have the opportunity to get on the water andexperience catching fish.
The Wish to Fish program is also maintained by LDWFpersonnel and dedicated volunteers. They focus on givingunderprivileged and inner city youth opportunities to fishalong Louisiana’s coast for the day with charter captains andexperienced recreational anglers. For some, the program isthe first opportunity to experience fishing and boating.
Expansion of both of these programs and creation of similarinitiatives are vital steps to increasing recreational fishingopportunities in Louisiana and expanding the conservationethic of the sportfishing community.
Photo Credit: Chris Macaluso
36 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
TexasTexas offers recreational saltwateranglers year-roundopportunities to catch avariety of popular species ina wide range of productivehabitats. Extensive bay systems,including Galveston Bay, MatagordaBay south to Corpus Christi Bay andLaguna Madre, are filled with natural reefsystems and grass beds good for holding largepopulations of speckled trout, redfish, black drum andflounder.
The Lone Star State also offers extensive offshore fishingopportunities for a number of reef fish like snapper, grouperand mackerel, as well as migratory fish like dolphin andwahoo. Texas is unique among Gulf states because it offers ayear-round red snapper season in its nine-mile state watersextending into the Gulf. To help expand and improve itssnapper fishery, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Departmentoperates an extensive artificial reef program both in statewaters and beyond.
Fortunately for anglers and residents, Texas shorelines werenot heavily oiled during the Deepwater Horizon spill, andfisheries closures were located east of Texas state waters.However, like the other Gulf states, Texas’ recreational fishingindustry still suffered the stigma of polluted waters andtainted seafood.
Texas also has seen the quality of its near-shore fishinghabitat decline over the last several decades due to a varietyof factors, especially the excessive damming and diverting offreshwater from river systems, a lack of sediment input intobarrier islands and marshes, changes in tidal flows andhurricanes. Many of Texas’ coastal habitats still are feelingthe effects of projects aimed at protecting barrier islands andbays from the Ixtoc oil spill that occurred off the Mexicancoast between June 1979 and March 1980.
Wise investment of recovery dollars from the DeepwaterHorizon spill can address long-term habitat declines in Texas’coastal waters, return angler confidence, encourageadditional recreational opportunities and help make LoneStar State saltwater angling healthy for decades to come.
habitat Restoration and improvementFreshwater inflows into Coastal estuariesTexas’ large coastal bays rely on the proper mix of freshwaterand saltwater to maximize fisheries productivity andmaintain important fisheries habitat like marshes and seagrass beds. Rivers, especially the Colorado, have beendiverted and dammed throughout central Texas to providemunicipal water supplies and irrigation for agriculture. Attimes, flow rates from the Colorado into Matagorda Bay areless than 10 percent of historical averages.
Maintaining a consistent freshwater influx into Texas’ coastalbays is essential to fisheries nursery grounds like brackishand intermediate wetlands, sea grasses and oyster reefs.Investments need to be made to develop and implementplans that limit unnecessary uses of freshwater upstream inorder to maintain the proper balance of fresh and saltwaterin coastal estuaries.
Beneficial Use of dredged Materials The Corps of Engineers Galveston District is responsible formaintenance dredging of ports and shipping channels acrossthe Texas coast, including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Inmany cases, the construction and maintenance of shippingchannels interrupts the natural hydrology and deposition ofsediment that created barrier islands, beaches and coastalmarshes. New sediment input into barrier islands andcoastal marshes is limited, as well, because many of therivers that empty into Texas’ coastal estuaries have beenextensively dammed and diverted upstream, limiting theirsediment carrying capacity.
Photo Credit: Louisiana CPRA
The Corps has conducted several small-scale barrier islandand wetland nourishment projects in Texas by beneficiallyusing dredged spoil. Some of those include marsh creation atthe Bolivar Marsh near the Houston Ship Channel, beachnourishment at South Padre Island using sediment dredgedfrom the Brazos Island Harbor, and a 1,600-acre marshcreation project in the Aransas National Wildlife Refugeusing sediment dredged from the GIWW. However, theGalveston District estimates that, in general, less than 20percent of the materials dredged for channel and harbormaintenance are used to build or enhance coastal habitats.Increasing the beneficial use of dredged materials is essentialto sustaining and increasing healthy fish habitat along theTexas coast.
Restoring Tidal exchanges in Coastal BaysMany passes and tidal inlets were closed by pumping sandinto gaps as part of a strategy to stop oil from entering baysand river systems during the Ixtoc oil spill in 1979. While theclosing of passes was effective in helping contain the oil tobeaches and prevent it from entering areas like marsheswhere it would have been much more difficult to remove and
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability | 37
clean without exacerbating the environmental damage, manyof the passes filled in remain closed or partially closed morethan three decades later. Closing the passes has limitedessential tidal interaction, causing areas of stagnant waterwith significantly reduced fisheries production.
Opening the passes and restoring proper tidal exchangesbetween the Gulf of Mexico and coastal bays will helpimprove water quality, increase dissolved oxygen contents,encourage healthier habitats and lead to healthier fishstocks.
oyster Reef enhancement and PreservationOysters are a valuable commercial commodity in Texas, butthey are just as valuable as habitat for sportfish and foragespecies. Oyster reef expansion has been limited in Texas’ baysprimarily because of drought conditions and a lack offreshwater input. This has caused high salinity levels that canlead to predation from parasites. The Nature Conservancy inTexas worked with state and federal agencies, landownersand other conservation groups to expand oyster reefs andinstall shoreline protection structures that encourage oystergrowth in many locations, including Copano Bay, near PortAransas. Also, the Coastal Conservation Association workedwith Texas A&M Corpus Christi and the National Fish andWildlife Foundation to expand oyster habitat in Aransas Bayby placing long mounds of crushed limestone, along withoyster shells collected from local restaurants, to encouragenew oyster growth. Continued and expanded investment inprojects that increase oyster habitat can help sustain andenhance recreational fishing opportunities.
miles of shore to help improve angler opportunity and attractmore out-of-state anglers. More near-shore reefs wouldallow fishermen in smaller boats access to a very healthy reeffishery.
improved fishery monitoring, datacollection, research and managementisnapperThe Harte Institute developed the iSnapper smartphoneapplication and began using it in 2011 as a way to bettertrack the number of red snapper being harvested on for-hirevessels in Texas. Using the smartphones and tablets to recordcatches allows fisheries managers to process data in a moretimely manner than having to analyze charter captains’handwritten log books. By gathering the data in real time,managers are able to more accurately determine how muchof the annual quota of red snapper are being harvestedduring the season and can make adjustments to seasonlengths within the framework of the current year’s season.
Expansion of iSnapper to include more anglers andpotentially other states can be a useful tool in helping refinethe process of gathering fisheries-dependent data.Investment of recovery dollars in technology, like iSnapper,can help fisheries managers on the state and federal levelestablish more consistent seasons and improve recoveryefforts of stocks determined to be overfished.
Federal marine fisheries managers and data analyzers shouldwork closely with the developers of programs such asiSnapper to ensure the data can be used universally by bothstate-based and federal managers.
analysis of offshore artificial ReefsMany of Texas’ more than 60 offshore artificial reefs havenever been analyzed by fisheries managers and researchersto determine their efficacy. Some reefs could have beendamaged by hurricanes since being constructed. Others maynot be located in optimal locations to create beneficialhabitat. Some materials may be better suited to attractingparticular species of reef fish.
Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
Oyster reef shoreline protection project has helped capture sediment
in Matagorda Bay.
offshore artificial ReefsThe Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has created morethan 60 artificial reefs off the state’s coast using a variety ofmaterials, including decommissioned barges and ships, oilrigs, concrete from demolished highways and bridges andheavy-gauge steel beams. These reefs are located as close asfive miles from shore to as far out as 100 miles. With Texas’year-long red snapper season, many fishermen want toincrease the number of artificial reefs created within nine
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Artificial Reef Program
38 | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
An analysis of existing artificial reefs off the Texas coast willhelp fisheries researchers and managers determine if thereefs are performing their intended functions and also aid inbetter planning for the construction and location of newreefs.
Recreational fishing business impactsand restoration of angler interest,confidence and accessPedestrian and vehicular Beach accessTexas’ constitution guarantees all state citizens access to allstate beaches. The “wet” areas of the beach are guaranteed toremain open to pedestrian access. Many coastal towns andcounties manage areas for access for vehicles as well,charging fees for both parking areas and for driving on thebeach. More anglers are utilizing public facilities like beachesand piers. Expanding public parking areas and vehicularaccess to beaches will allow for more angler access. Oil spillrecovery dollars should be used at the state agency and locallevels to establish management plans and improve access topublic beaches for anglers and other visitors.
Marketing Texas’ angling opportunitiesTexas offers excellent year-round fishing for a number ofpopular sportfishing species and access to a variety ofhabitats and fishing opportunities. Expansive grass flats andshallow-water reefs offer world-class fishing for trophyspeckled trout as well as redfish, flounder and even a smallpopulation of snook. Even big-game species like marlin andtuna are regularly landed by anglers leaving from Texasports.
The Restore Council initial plan allows for states to use oilspill recovery funds for the promotion of recreational fishingopportunities. Establishing a consistent marketing andadvertising plan to attract out-of-state anglers to Texas,assure visitors that the state’s beaches and waters are cleanand the fish are safe to consume, will help repair theeconomic damage suffered both during the spill and insubsequent years.
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Artificial Reef Program
ConclusionHealthy fish and quality fishing in the Gulf of Mexico meanhealthy economies and improved quality of life throughoutthe United States. The Gulf has experienced natural and man-made disasters on a scale unlike anywhere else in America.Its people and communities have displayed remarkableresilience and an ability to quickly recover and itsecosystems continue to produce world-class fishingopportunities. However, without a concerted effort across theGulf to repair damaged habitats from the 2010 DeepwaterHorizon oil spill and numerous other factors and without aneffort to help improve fisheries science and coastalcommunities, the region will lose its resiliency and its abilityto support quality fishing opportunities.
This report lays out a map for the future of recreationalfisheries in the Gulf. It is meant to establish the foundation bywhich the TRCP and its sportfishing partners engage thestate and federal resource agencies and coastal communitiesthat will bear the responsibility for repairing the damagesfrom decades of habitat loss and a lack of complete scienceand data – all made more apparent and severe by theDeepwater Horizon spill.
Many of the projects and initiatives identified in this reportwill require extensive discussion and cooperation among
fisheries managers, conservation groups, fishermen,scientists, private business owners and policy makers atevery level of government before they can be built orestablished. The goal is to bring a variety of stakeholders anddecision makers together to create better fisheries, habitatand science-related policy and ultimately work toward abetter Gulf of Mexico. That task will not always be easy. Manyof the causes of the Gulf’s long-term habitat impairments donot come with simple solutions. Some of these projects andefforts will take years and even decades to fully implement.However, the consequences of failing to act quickly to beginrestoring this nationally-vital region are dire to America’slong-term economic and ecological health.
The Deepwater Horizon spill was a tragedy on a scale unlikeany experienced in American history. That tragedy hasprovided an equally unprecedented opportunity to repair thedamages of the past and build toward a better future for theGulf. Wise investments in healthy habitats, better and morecomplete science and improving coastal infrastructure thatsupports recreational fishing, like the projects and initiativesidentified in this report, will help the Gulf’s economy andecosystems become healthier and sustainable forgenerations to come.
Special ThanksThe TRCP and its partners would like to thank the following individuals, agencies, organizations and businesses for
helping make this report possible: Scott Burns and The Walton Family Foundation; Ed Francis and Millie Cutrer—Whitney
Bank, Hancock Bank; Nicole Woerner and Phillip West—City of Orange Beach; Libby Yranski, Mike Leonard—American
Sportfishing Association; Nanciann Regalado, Debbie DeVore, Chris Pease and Woody Woodrow—U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service; Tampa Bay Estuary Program; Snook and Gamefish Foundation; Alexa Dayton; Beth Ford; Ted Venker--Coastal
Conservation Association; Capt. Sam Barbera; Capt. Darryl Carpenter; Capt. Frank Dreher; Capt. Howard Cuevas; Capt.
Peace Marvel; Gil McRae—Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute; MOTE Marine Laboratory; Dr. Larry McKinney;
Dr. Greg Stunz; Garret Graves; Drue Banta; Chris Blankeship and Randy Pausina. Chris Blankeship and Randy Pausina.
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is acoalition of organizations and grassroots partners workingtogether to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.