Gulf Restoration Plan Includes Angler Engagement

NEW ORLEANS – In a move welcomed by recreational anglers both in the Gulf of Mexico and more broadly, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council today voted to adopt a plan outlining recovery efforts, both ecological and financial, for the Gulf region in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy” establishes generally the types of projects to be targeted by the Council , including approaches that can help repair habitat degradation – occurring both in the wake of the oil spill and in the decades preceding it – and ensure the health and sustainability of recreational fishing throughout the Gulf for generations to come.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is working closely with sportfishing advocacy and conservation groups as well as state and federal agencies represented on the council to identify approaches that will benefit the region’s fish and wildlife habitat. In May, the TRCP convened a series of workshops in each of the five Gulf states to gather stakeholder input on projects important to recreational fishing interests. Projects identified during the TRCP’s Gulf Recreational Fishing Restoration Workshops will be detailed in a report to be released this fall.

“Sportfishing is an enormous economic and cultural component of the Gulf region and sustains many of the coastal communities directly affected by the 2010 spill,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries, “and this plan reflects many of the priorities identified by the Gulf recreational fishing community.

“The focus on the restoration of vital fisheries habitat like coastal wetlands, reefs and barrier islands and improving water quality in the initial plan is very important to sustaining recreational fishing in the region,” continued Macaluso, a native Louisianan and avid angler. “Now is the time to move forward with identifying specific projects that will help accomplish these goals and ensure the projects are undertaken quickly and efficiently.”

The TRCP’s work in the Gulf of Mexico addresses key issues central to the health of the region’s fisheries and injects the voice of the recreational angling community into the policy process. Partners such as the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and International Game Fish Association help inform the TRCP’s approach.

“This plan gives us a good starting point for sustaining and improving the Gulf’s vital sportfishing community,” said CCC President Jeff Angers. “Sportfishing interests throughout the Gulf look forward to continuing to work with the council to ensure we have healthy sportfishing ecosystems and economies.”

The council has indicated it is considering the formation of a citizens’ advisory panel to help maintain a high level of public engagement as it selects projects that will receive funding.

“The public must remain engaged with the council as the restoration process moves forward,” stressed Macaluso. “This advisory panel will give stakeholders like the sportfishing community a chance to participate in the Gulf’s recovery and contribute to building the long-term health of the region’s ecosystems. Moreover, it will build trust among stakeholders and the government agencies responsible for implementing the projects. Its importance cannot be overstated.”