ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The American Sportfishing Association has expressed its strong support for the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, which was recently introduced in the Senate.
In support of the Gulf of Mexico region, still coping with the impacts of the April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, the ASA says this bill directs critical funding to the Gulf of Mexico region to help revitalize coastal communities and improve fisheries habitat and data collection. The association also says passing the bill would provide benefits for the thousands of recreational fishing-dependent businesses who continue to try and rebound from the oil spill’s economic and environmental impacts.
“The combination of the biological impacts and the public’s perception of the extent of those impacts caused severe economic harm to the region,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “We applaud the Senators for their leadership and urge Congress to move swiftly to pass this legislation which will help bring back the local economies and allow us to restore habitat and better understand the Gulf’s fisheries and their habitat.”
Introduced on July 21 by Senators Cochran (R-MS), Hutchison (R-TX), Landrieu (D-LA), Nelson (D-FL), Rubio (R-FL), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Vitter (R-LA), and Wicker (R-MS), the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act would direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and economy.
Along with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Center for Coastal Conservation, ASA developed recommendations from the Gulf’s sportfishing community to help guide recovery efforts, identifying three key areas for recovery efforts:
• Habitat restoration and improvement.
• Improved fishery monitoring, data collection, research and management.
• Investing in the recovery and future resilience of recreational fishing-dependent businesses and helping to restore angler interest and confidence.
“ASA is pleased to see our priority areas for Gulf recovery addressed in this legislation,” stated Nussman. “We fully support and encourage restoration of affected habitats and fisheries. We also believe it is crucial that a significant investment be made toward remedying the effects the oil spill had on recreational fishing-dependent businesses. This legislation provides a strong framework for long-term investment in business recovery and fisheries resources.”
ASA says that recreational fishing contributes $41 billion dollars in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports more than 300,000 jobs.
The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act would allocate funds equally to the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and economic recovery, and establishes the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast. Importantly, the Act also establishes an endowment that includes funding for needed fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem monitoring.
“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster brought into focus the remarkable lack of baseline knowledge of the Gulf’s marine fisheries resources,” noted Nussman. “In the months following the disaster, officials were unable to provide even the most basic data on many fisheries affected by the oil spill. We are grateful that the Senators identified the dire need for this information in order to successfully manage the Gulf’s fisheries which are the arguably the most popular, but also the most data-poor, of any region in the country.”