We must speak up for Florida's wildlife
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Media contact: Rodney Barreto, Chairman
As an unprecedented crisis spews oil into the Gulf
of Mexico, our ocean, our fish and our wildlife suffer immediate
and devastating impacts.
The good people on the Gulf coast are fighting for
their very livelihoods because of the impacts of the oil spill, but
they have strong voices coming to their aid, and they are beginning
to get help.
Florida's fish and wildlife cannot cry out for
help. That means it is up to us as the state's fish and wildlife
managers to come to their rescue and speak out for them.
Therefore, I urge BP to take responsibility for the
oiled wildlife and their degraded habitats by setting aside funding
now that will support the long-term survival of impacted wildlife
and restore habitat for the long term.
Florida's fish and wildlife are incredibly
important to the state and are two of Florida's main
attractions. Residents and tourists alike revel in spotting a
bottlenose dolphin playing in the surf. Can we even envision a
Florida without ospreys or pelicans soaring over our beaches?
Our wildlife are a critical part of our ecosystem, our livelihood
and the unique character of Florida.
Unfortunately, many of them will die from the
impact of the oil. Those that manage to survive may not have the
healthy habitats necessary to thrive unless something is done now
for their long-term survival.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC), along with federal and state partners, threw
itself into the protection of wildlife almost immediately after
word of the disaster broke. Our biologists are actively involved in
creating protocols for damage assessment for wildlife. But
funding is limited, and lack of dollars could very well translate
into a lack of fish, wildlife and habitat in the future.
We are doing everything we can to lessen the
impacts - some of these steps are risky, but it would be far
riskier and irresponsible of us to not do everything in our power
to protect species that might be decimated with the onslaught of
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National
Marine Fisheries Service and the FWC are undertaking an
unprecedented task of moving sea turtle eggs from the northern Gulf
beaches. Approximately 700 nests are laid on the beaches of
Northwest Florida each year. The hatchlings begin appearing in
early July and, in a normal year, face challenges in getting to the
sea unharmed. But this year, the additional challenges created by
the presence of oil pose increased dangers that could spell certain
death for all of the hatchlings. We are going to move the eggs to
the east coast, and when they hatch, put the small turtles on the
sand to do their march to the sea.
Is it risky? You bet. Will it make a difference?
Absolutely. At least now we know that some of 2010's Northwest
Florida sea turtle hatchlings - all of them threatened or
endangered - will have a fighting chance to survive the worst oil
disaster in our nation's history.
We continue to fight for the welfare of Florida's
precious wildlife that cannot speak, but we can speak. We are their
voice, and we say loud and clear, "BP, open your purse strings and
save our fish and wildlife so our grandchildren and great
grandchildren will not have to learn about our wild animals from
textbooks and museums because they became the dinosaurs of the 21st
Now is the time to take extreme measures to save
our precious resources. Fish and wildlife are critical to Florida's
survival. Without the benefits they bring to our everyday lives,
Florida would not be the special place it is today. It's time to
take responsibility for that survival, and BP holds the key.
Rodney Barreto, Chairman
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission