FWC hears update on oil spill response
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Media contact: Wendy Dial, 850-488-4676
Florida is open for business. This was the
recurring theme at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission's (FWC) emergency workshop May 19 in St. Pete Beach. The
Commission met to discuss agency plans and actions and public
concerns related to the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"We need to let the world know Florida is open for
business," FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto told more than 100 people
and media representatives attending the meeting. "Our beaches are
open, hotels are open and commercial and recreational fishing is
Barreto emphasized that Florida has had absolutely
no impacts from the oil spill and that the current spill
trajectories show no impacts in the immediate future. The
Commission learned firsthand from the experts that there have been
no direct impacts to Florida's fish and wildlife.
The Commissioners heard reports from FWC staff and
state and federal agency partners on the status of the oil spill.
They also learned what the FWC and other agencies are doing in
"It's all hands on deck for wildlife," Barreto
Capt. Tim Close of the U.S. Coast Guard, the lead
federal agency for oil spill response, gave the Commission a status
report on the oil spill. Timyn Rice of the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection, the state's designated lead agency in
this effort, explained how BP is stepping up to provide necessary
resources. Rice expressed appreciation for the great cooperation
across agencies involved in response efforts.
FWC division leaders reported that the agency has
established two-way communications with fishermen and conservation
groups, assessed legal options, and conducted scientific pre-impact
sampling of wildlife, habitats and fisheries.
After the staff reports, Commissioners opened the
floor to public comment. Representatives from various groups
expressed frustration about oil affecting their livelihoods and the
possibility of oil impacts on fish and wildlife. But the speakers'
biggest concern involved the lack of accurate information reaching
Barreto received applause from the audience when he
said, "Let's spend a little of BP's money and get the information
out there" about fishery openings and closings. He also stressed
the importance of quickly putting into action the $25 million BP
gave to the state to promote tourism. "We need to launch an
advertising campaign that targets both Floridians and potential
visitors to Florida."
Meanwhile, staff reported that the FWC is ready to
act should oil in any form move into Florida waters.
Mark Robson, director of the FWC's Division of
Marine Fisheries Management, said the FWC will close fisheries only
if there are clear and compelling reasons. And if closures are
needed, the FWC will close only the smallest area needed and reopen
areas as quickly as possible. Commissioners gave Robson the green
light to that approach.
Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC's Division of
Law Enforcement, assured the Commission by stating, "Our agency is
experienced in emergency response, and FWC teams are prepared to
assist if oil comes ashore."
Gil McRae, director of the FWC's Fish and Wildlife
Research Institute (FWRI) in St. Petersburg, said FWRI uses digital
maps that pinpoint areas important for wildlife. These maps are
being used to guide response efforts. Oil spill response
partners are conducting observation flights to monitor fish and
wildlife and to help track the changing oil boundary.
FWC experts are embedded in all Unified Command
Centers around the Gulf.
Because of the impact to red snapper season, the
FWC is working with NOAA to collect data to redouble sampling
efforts of recreational species - a major priority for the FWC.
Commissioner Brian Yablonski said if the data shows that fishing
effort is much lower than normal, a supplemental season may be
For the latest updates on the oil spill and
Florida's response, go to MyFWC.com/OilSpill or www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon. These
sites contain information on where and how to report oiled wildlife
or shorelines, provide information on volunteer opportunities and
link to the Florida Emergency Operations Center daily reports.