Archive for June, 2012
CCA applauds Mississippi congressman’s efforts to halt destruction of marine habitat
WASHINGTON, DC – At a breakfast briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation this morning, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) presented the concerns of the recreational angling community over the Department of Interior’s controversial Idle Iron directive and closed by inviting fellow Congressmen to sign onto a letter requesting a moratorium on rig removals.
“A temporary moratorium on rig removals related to the Idle Iron Policy is needed to evaluate those structures and keep as many as safely possible in the water,” he said. “That iron wasn’t put there to become habitat, but that’s what it has become, and it certainly is not ‘idle.’ It is an irreplaceable, living asset that should be protected. And as a sportsman from a Gulf state, I feel an obligation to protect that habitat.”
Coastal Conservation Association worked with Rep. Palazzo on the call for a moratorium on the Idle Iron policy and pledged to engage its membership to encourage their elected officials to add their signatures to the letter.
“Rep. Palazzo clearly appreciates the value of those structures as artificial habitat and understands the concerns of the recreational angling community,” said Pat Murray, CCA president. “His call for a moratorium is the latest in a growing chorus of concerns from other elected officials, marine scientists and other state and federal agencies. It is time for the Department of Interior to heed those concerns and take a more precautionary approach to these structures.”
In a misguided response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive in October of 2010 ordering that all non-producing wells be plugged and any associated structures removed within five years of the issuance of that directive. Since then, CCA has worked on and supported a number of actions to derail the Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Palazzo; language implementing strict review and reporting requirements on removals in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012; the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s decision to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters from both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy.
Earlier this month, a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups also called for a halt to Idle Iron policy in a letter to Secretary Salazar, citing the irreparable damage it stands to inflict on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems. Additionally, this week the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, an 18-member committee established to provide input to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recreational boating and fishing issues, and aquatic resource conservation issues, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar calling for a two-year moratorium on rig removals.
“These towers of metal covered in coral are inactive for years, sometimes decades. They are a far cry from active rigs engaged in drilling operations in thousands of feet of water,” said Rep. Palazzo. “Rigs and platforms across the Gulf have come and gone over the years, but the Idle Iron Policy proposes to clear-cut that vast forest of structure. The Idle Iron issue may seem complex, but at the end of the day we would be wise to protect these habitats.”
Visit the CCA Rigs to Reefs page to learn more about the issue of these artificial reefs and their impact on the marine environment.
Tags: Gulf marine habitat, Idle Iron, rig removal moratorium, rigs to reefs
Posted in CCA Gulf of Mexico | No Comments »
Mountain of evidence points to allocation increases for recreational anglers in the Gulf
With the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council set to review allocations for Gulf red snapper and grouper during its meeting this week in Tampa, Coastal Conservation Association has presented a summary of 19 studies going back to 2000 that show the economic benefits of shifting a greater portion of the allocation of these two species to the recreational sector. All of the studies, conducted by private, academic and government scientists, have been presented to the Gulf Council previously and the Council has chosen to take no affirmative action.
“We’re not talking about one or two studies, we’re talking about an overwhelming body of work spanning more than a decade by some of the most respected economists in fisheries management,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “The best available economic science clearly supports increasing the recreational allocation. It is difficult to understand why NOAA Fisheries has not acted on these studies before now to produce the best possible outcome for the economies of the Gulf states and for the nation.”
CCA supports basing allocations on modern economic and demographic criteria that reflect current and future realities for these fisheries rather than outdated catch histories. Management schemes that give away public resources through measures such as sector separation and catch shares lock-in outdated allocations to individual businesses, making those resources subsequently unavailable to respond to economic and demographic changes.
“We urge NOAA Fisheries to use the considerable economic information it has in hand to increase opportunities for the entire recreational sector, comprised of hundreds of thousands of anglers,” said Brewer. “Recreational angling is an economic engine that should be enhanced during these tough economic times that are impacting every sector of our society. These 19 studies indicate that a relatively simple allocation shift would immediately produce economic benefits to anglers and the businesses that depend on them.”
CCA supplied the summary of economic data to Gulf Council members and NOAA staff in a letter to Council Chairman Robert Gill. CCA urged the Council to act on the information and look objectively towards maximizing the benefits generated for the entire nation by these valuable marine resources.
Tags: grouper, Gulf of Mexico, reallocation, red snapper
Posted in CCA Gulf of Mexico | No Comments »
Legislation takes valuable step in protecting marine habitat
As a result of consistent pressure and engagement by Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and its partners, language that begins to address the critical issue of Gulf rig and platform removals has been included in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012. Congressional Sportsman Caucus Chairs Senators Jon Tester (D-Mt) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 as an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill (S. 3240) this week.
“There is an immediate need to halt these removals and CCA is actively working to put a moratorium in place,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA National. “As part of that overall strategy, this legislation includes a new plan for the Department of Interior to send a report to Congress on how it is going to assess this critical habitat before indiscriminately ripping out these artificial reefs. Something has to be done to make the federal government realize it is making a horrible mistake destroying this valuable habitat.”
In a misguided response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive in October of 2010 ordering that all non-producing rigs and platforms be plugged and any remaining structure removed within five years of the issuance of that directive. Since then, CCA has worked on and supported a number of efforts to derail the negative impacts of the Idle Iron Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Ms), the recent decision by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters of opposition from Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to the Department of Interior. Earlier this week, CCA and a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups called for a moratorium on the Idle Iron Policy in a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“Inclusion of Idle Iron language in the Sportsmen’s Act is yet another step towards our goal and we are grateful to Senators Tester and Thune for including this section in the Sportsmen’s Package. It raises the visibility of an issue that is of great importance to recreational anglers,” said Murray.
Passage of the Sportsmen’s Act would require the Department of Interior (DOI) to coordinate with relevant federal and state agencies and accredited marine research institutes to assess the biodiversity and critical habitat present at platforms and related structures subject to removal, and assess the potential impacts of their removal. DOI would also have to develop a report on the potential impacts that the removal of those structures would have on the rebuilding plans for Gulf reef fish and habitat. Ultimately, the Secretary of Interior would also have to submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a final report that includes a description of public comments from regional stakeholders, including recreational anglers, divers, offshore oil and gas companies, marine biologists, and commercial fisherman, as well as options to mitigate potential adverse impacts on marine habitat associated with that removal.
The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 contains a number of other components beneficial to hunting and recreational fishing and shooting. In addition to the Idle Iron language, the Act also contains a section containing the Billfish Conservation Act and a section that specifically excludes ammo and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Click HERE to see the complete Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 posted on the CCA Rigs to Reefs page.
Tags: artificial reefs, Idle Iron, rigs to reefs, sportsmen's act
Posted in CCA Gulf of Mexico | No Comments »
Urgency mounts over negative impacts of Idle Iron policy
A coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups is calling for a halt to the federal government’s destructive “Idle Iron” policy that threatens to dismantle what is regarded as the largest artificial reef system in the world. In a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the coalition calls for a moratorium to prevent the Idle Iron Policy from inflicting irreparable damage on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems.
“Our groups respectfully request a two-year moratorium on the Idle Iron guidance until a stakeholder process can be developed to both determine the best methods to properly dismantle platforms that are not serving as marine habitat and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine ecosystems,” states the letter signed by Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, The Billfish Foundation, and the International Game Fish Association. “We offer our combined expertise and stand ready to be resources for your Department to develop more thoughtful methods to achieve our shared goal of protecting the marine environment while conserving these valuable artificial reefs.”
In a knee-jerk response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive in October of 2010 ordering that all non-producing rigs and platforms be plugged and any remaining structure removed within five years of the issuance of that directive. Anglers have grown increasingly frustrated over the increased pace of rig removals and the profound negative implications for marine fisheries and local coastal communities and businesses that rely on the fishing opportunities these structures provide.
“The entire issue of platform removals needs a much more thorough review given the incredible array of priceless marine habitat at stake,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA. “Political leaders and experts from across the spectrum have voiced serious concerns about the impacts of the Idle Iron directive and are demanding a more reasoned process to evaluate these structures.”
The coalition has been working to include the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La) into a sportsmen’s legislative package being crafted in the Senate. Opposition to the bill from the Department of Interior has made that road more difficult, but efforts are underway to insert language requiring a more thorough review and vetting process before any structures are removed as a result of the Idle Iron Policy. Also encouraging, in April of 2012, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). If artificial reefs are eventually designated as EFH, all federal agencies would then have to consult with NOAA Fisheries on federal actions that may adversely affect them. In the last two months, both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) have written letters to Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy.
“The bottom line is that irreparable damage is being done now – once those structures are removed it is too late for the Department of Interior to determine it made a horrible mistake,” said Murray. “The only reasonable thing to do is call a time-out and take a more thoughtful, cautious approach before we lose any more habitat.”
Click HERE to see a copy of the groups’ letter posted on the CCA Rigs to Reefs page.
Tags: artificial habitat, DOI, Idle Iron, rigs to reefs
Posted in CCA Gulf of Mexico | No Comments »