FWC employees perform above and beyond to respond to oil spill disaster
As I See It
Thursday, September 09, 2010
I think we should take a moment here to recognize
the exemplary performance of all of the employees of the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) who have been
responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At the height of the
oil spill, FWC employees tirelessly carried out responsibilities to
protect our precious natural resources and preserve the scenic
beauty of our great state.
FWC staff prepares for critical incidents,
including oil spills, that may affect wildlife. Even before the
spill, the FWC was involved in developing area contingency plans
and training with the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection's (DEP) Bureau of Emergency Response on oil spill
cleanup and damage assessment.
Immediately after the rig exploded, the FWC quickly
began coordinating with DEP, the lead state agency charged with
responding to the oil spill, as well as with other federal, state
and local agencies responding to the disaster. FWC staff updated
area contingency plans to help guide placement of booms and protect
environmentally sensitive areas. These plans are critical to help
prevent further damage to our fish and wildlife.
The FWC also provided GIS mapping assistance to
decision-makers developing response and cleanup strategies. The
information provided helps with prioritizing response efforts and
assessing damage after a spill.
FWC scientists also began pre-impact assessments of
our natural resources. Sampling included testing of sediment, fish
and shellfish along the coastline and in the Gulf.
FWC staff surveyed critical habitat of sea turtles
and shorebirds, so we could provide the best information to
decision-makers. Staff developed wildlife response plans to help
guide those officials through this unprecedented event. The
information provided by FWC biologists helped guide decisions on
booming, shoreline protection, cleanup and response.
Also, FWC biologists led development of rescue and
relocation plans for Gulf wildlife. FWC provided guidance to our
partners who rescued hundreds of visibly oiled birds.
Unfortunately, many of those birds died in rehabilitation
facilities or were already dead upon collection. However, some have
been returned to the wild.
FWC biologists assisted our partners in recovering
approximately 130 visibly oiled sea turtles. Fortunately, many of
those turtles responded well to rehabilitation, and many have been
Oil threatened sea turtle nests on Northwest
Florida beaches. As a result, staff and our partners made the
unprecedented move to get those nests out of harm's way. The FWC,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and volunteers relocated
approximately 250 sea turtle nests and released more than 13,000
FWC law enforcement also responded in an exemplary
manner. On the water, in the air and on the ground, our officers
performed daily reconnaissance missions, looking for oil and
communicating their findings to those coordinating the cleanup.
As for our saltwater fish populations, we'll have
to continue to monitor the effects, but they appear to be much less
severe than anticipated. State waters are open to fishing and
shrimp harvest. Most federal waters off the Florida coast are open
The FWC and our partners will continue working to
document the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The
response will continue until threats to Florida's natural resources
are no longer present. Staff stands ready if re-oiling occurs.
Monitoring and research on subsurface oil continues. We are just at
the beginning of determining the extent of damage to wildlife and
It bears repeating that FWC staff shines brightest
during challenging times. It is an honor to serve as FWC chairman
in the company of these talented and dedicated people.