Selected tag(s): Florida

BP Oil Disaster Hasn’t Touched the Southeast Atlantic – Yet, Writes EDF’s Chief Scientist, Doug Rader

The evolution of the Gulf Loop Current from a strong downstream delivery phase on May 7 to a cutoff eddy phase on June 11, temporarily detaining oil pollution. Credit: NWS.

Today in the Charlotte Observer newspaper,  EDF’s Chief Ocean Scientist Doug Rader explained why the Southeast isn’t yet tripping over tar balls in an op-ed titled, “BP oil spill not in our backyard – yet.”

For the most part, Southeasterners can thank an eddy named Franklin, which has kept oil out of the currents heading toward the Florida Keys. Instead, Franklin is pushing it westward. But Franklin won’t last forever, and the normal loop current  is already starting to reestablish itself. Once this happens, the oil again will spread east around the tip of Florida.

“Unless this week’s efforts to fully cap the well are successful, the already profound toll – environmental, human and economic – could multiply, both in the Gulf and in the broader world we share,” Rader cautions.

Read other blog posts by Doug Rader on the BP oil disaster.

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As oil-related fishery closures quickly grow, EDF supports Senator Nelson’s Florida fishery disaster designation request

NOAA 6/2/10 Fishery Closure Map

Click the map to learn more about the current fishery closure covering 37% of the Gulf (6/2/10).

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) requested a fishery disaster designation for the state of Florida to assist fishermen, their families, and associated businesses who are feeling the impacts of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a closure of 37% of federal fishing waters, many along the coast of Florida. Just yesterday, 31% of the Gulf was closed and on Monday 26% was closed. These extensive and growing closures are already impacting the Gulf’s multi-billion dollar fishing and tourist industries.

EDF supports Senator Nelson’s request, which will provide federal assistance to affected Florida fishermen and communities, and encourages U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to make this designation.

On May 24, the Department of Commerce made a disaster designation for Gulf of Mexico fisheries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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Face to Face with Gulf Fishermen Impacted by Oil Spill

Click the map to see our route along the coast.

Last week, Laura Williamson and I traveled from the Gulf coast fishing towns of Port Fourchon, Louisiana to Destin, Florida to meet with offshore commercial and recreational fishermen, wholesale fish dealers and restaurant owners to learn how the uncontrolled oil spill is impacting businesses and if there are any ways that our organization can help.

The oil slick and measures to control it present real threats, especially for many struggling Louisiana fishermen and their families who are not able to fish inshore right now.  The good news is that most offshore fishing and many coastal areas are not directly impacted by the oil spill so far, but this is mostly missing from media coverage.

Below is a summary of some important things we learned last week. We’ll post fishermen’s stories over the course of the week.


EDF met with Alabama charter boat operator Ben Fairey, who is concerned about the negative perception that the media is creating about all Gulf fishing. All of his fishing trips in May have been cancelled because of the perceived impacts of the oil spill, even though fishing is still open and safe in Alabama.

Fishermen face uncertainty

Fishing families, wholesalers, and seafood restaurant owners we met with face tremendous uncertainty, not knowing whether the spill will be contained in another week, or many months from now.  Some fishermen are unsure if they should move their boats to a safer location to keep fishing, or stay put to lend a hand to clean the spill or lease their services to crews of scientists and news reporters. Over the long-term, an uncontrolled spill could have many impacts on fish, oysters, shellfish, wetlands that serve as nurseries, and the rest of the food chain.


Media misses major angle to the story


While the threats are real, the sentiment we heard most loudly and clearly was that the negative reports from the media are mostly exaggerated, at least for the current situation, and are driving away tourists and regular offshore fishing clients from areas that are not affected.  There is a lot of exasperation over this. Several folks told us that people will be scared to eat Gulf seafood or risk taking a fishing trip. At the same time, people understand that this might become an “unprecedented disaster,” as it is currently being portrayed, if oil continues spilling for a long time.

Fishing communities want solutions

People told us they want solutions, but recognize that the oil industry has a huge economic impact in many parts of the Gulf.  They believe that the accident should provide lessons-learned for environmental protections and alternative energy.

Solutions for fishing communities: tell us what you think

EDF is working to understand what fishing communities need to get through this hard time.  We’re also interested in improving offshore fishery management to develop sustainable fish populations and fishing practices and businesses that are resilient to natural and man-made disasters. 

EDF has been working in the Gulf for 15 years and this oil spill threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming oceans fisheries to models of sustainability.

Help us by explaining how the oil spill is affecting you and your business. You can respond with a comment on this blog, or send us an email.  

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Ancient Deepwater Coral Ecosystems of the Southeast

Deep water corals - South Atlantic U.S.; Photo by Dr. Steve RossAlthough corals from deepwaters of the U.S. Southeast were first reported way back in the 1880’s, more than a century passed before research revealed the breathtaking scale of the deepwater coral reef ecosystems in the region.  Dr. Steve Ross (UNC-Wilmington) and Dr. John Reed (Harbor Branch) have actively partnered with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council over the past decade to ensure that cutting-edge science is translated into strong protection for these world class reefs.

These deepwater reef ecosystems include a dizzying array of mounds and pinnacles covering nearly 25,000 square miles from North Carolina to Florida at depths of 1,000 feet and greater on the Blake Plateau and similar geologic contexts, extending into waters managed by the Bahamas and probably Cuba as well. 

Deep water corals - South Atlantic; Photo by Dr. Steve RossThese reefs are home to tremendous biological diversity, including many species new to science, and including species of potential economic value, both for fishing and for pharmaceutical prospecting.  Individual colonies may be thousands of years old, and some mounds likely exceed a million years in age, creating a record of changing conditions in the deep ocean.

The Council’s Habitat and Environmental Protection Advisory Panel (which I chair) and Coral Advisory Panel have worked tirelessly with scientists, the Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and fishermen to create proposed protection zones called “Habitat Areas of Particular Concern,” that will protect these treasures against fishing and other threats.  In particular, EDF negotiated “allowable gear zones,” where traditional fisheries for deepwater animals (golden crab and royal red shrimp) would be allowed, away from vulnerable tall pinnacles.  The Council stands ready to finalize these protection zones at its next meeting in September.

Photos by Dr. Steve Ross

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