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FB57 Deep Water Horizon Formatted

FB57 Deep Water Horizon Formatted

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Published by Bob Wattendorf

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Jun 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Florida Fish Busters’ BulletinSeptember 2010Freshwater Fisheries and the Deepwater Horizon Oil SpillBob Wattendorf, Chris Paxton and FWC Staff 
The Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire on an offshore oil-drillingplatform on April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico has been described as one of thelargest marine oil spills in history. The threat to Florida’s commercial andrecreational fisheries was immense, as well as creating the risk of injury tomarine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and flora and fauna throughout thefood chain. Even further it threatened fisheries-dependent businesses and thetourism economy. Fortunately, with the diversity and scope of Florida’sfisheries, we feel confident that Florida retained the title of “Fishing Capitalof the World,” based on our great resources and responsible management.From the beginning, freshwater fisheries biologists stepped up to helpwith response efforts to protect Florida’s marine species. Even though ourfreshwater fisheries were not directly challenged, we were concerned aboutimpacts on estuarine and riverine species especially if species such as crabs – a major food source for marine life – were to become contaminated.Largemouth and striped bass around the mouths of Northwest Florida riverscould be impacted by oil if it washed in far enough. Fortunately, there is noscientific evidence that show these impacts.
BP, the U.S. Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service weredesignated as lead response agencies (www.restorethegulf.gov
) nationally. InFlorida, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was the leadagency for responding to the oil spill.The Florida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission (FWC)has and will play a vital rolethroughout this event until impactsare known and dealt with effectively.FWC staff (working with DEcounty governments, water management districts and several federalagencies) has conducted pre- and post-spill fish and wildlife assessments.These include taking water samples and testing for contamination insediments, fish and shellfish and evaluating critical habitat for fish, andespecially shorebird and sea turtle nesting areas t P,hat might be impacted.
FWC scientist Larame Ferry photographs offshore oil from National Guard C-23 aircraft.
The FWC was very involved in locating the presence of oil, usingscientists aboard FWC law enforcement and research vessels offshore, as wellas patrolling beaches using all-terrain vehicles and doing flyovers with bothrotary and fixed wing aircraft.Beyond reconnoitering, the FWC played a key role in mapping impactsof the spill using geographical information systems and coordinating withmedia about fish and wildlife. Hands-on activities included involvement with
oiled wildlife recovery and cleaning-and-release programs led by Tri-State, aprivate contractor. A very successful sea turtle egg transplant program tokeep hatchling turtles out of harm’s way was led by the FWC. The FWC,partner agencies and volunteers relocated 261 nests along the NorthwestFlorida coast until it was determined habitat was safe for hatchlings toemerge naturally. Eggs were carefullyplaced in specially prepared coolers anddriven by FedEx trucks to Kennedy SpaceCenter on Florida's east coast. The coolerswere monitored by Innovative Health Application biologists. Since July 10, more than 8,000 hatchlings have beenreleased into the Atlantic. Most were loggerhead sea turtles (a threatenedspecies). A few endangered Kemp's ridley turtle and green sea turtle nestswere also relocated.
 Randy Simmons stands with special racks torotect turtle eggs.
 Approximately 350 nests remain on Florida's northwest beaches, andturtles typically continue to lay eggs throughout August. These will be left fornature to care for, since recent investigations of critical sargassum weed linesoffshore of nesting areas show them to be visibly clean of oil and to havevibrant populations of prey young turtles need to survive.Northwest Region Division of Freshwater Fisheries Managementbiologists Dave Yeager and senior fisheries technician Randy Simmonsassisted with aerial over-flight reconnaissance to monitor shoreline,

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