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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
Twenty Congressmen join call for moratorium on rig removals
Efforts to save marine habitat gain support from across the country
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ A letter from the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus (CSC) to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar calling for a moratorium on rig removals due to the federal governments Idle Iron policy will carry the signatures of 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, an impressive bi-partisan display of concern for marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
â€œAs leaders and members of the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus, we are concerned that the Idle Iron guidance issued by the Department of Interior in October of 2010 is having an adverse impact on critical marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico,â€ states the letter, signed by Representatives from 10 states. â€œWe request that your Department enact a temporary moratorium on the removal of structures related to that Directive until a stakeholder process can be developed to determine both the best methods to properly dismantle rigs that have cause to be removed, and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine ecosystems.â€
In response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive which resulted in a policy that will ultimately force removal of any rigs, platforms or associated structures from non-producing wells. Coastal Conservation Association and other groups have argued that the structures are the basis for thriving ecosystems that sustain an immense diversity of life, and have called for a thorough evaluation to be developed before any removal decisions are made. CCA worked with CSC and with Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on this most recent call for a moratorium on the Idle Iron policy to develop that process. Rep. Palazzo presented the concerns of the recreational angling community at a briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmens Foundation in June where he also invited fellow members of the Caucus to sign onto the letter to Secretary Salazar.
â€œSportsmen know the value of habitat. We know how hard it is to create it and we know how easy it is to lose it,â€ said Rep. Palazzo. â€œWe cannot sit idly by while marine habitat in the Gulf is destroyed by a policy that clearly needs more consideration. The Idle Iron issue may seem complex, but at the end of the day we would be wise to protect these habitats.â€
The letter from the CSC is the latest in a string of efforts that CCA has worked on and supported to derail the Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed in 2011 by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and the companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Palazzo; language implementing strict review and reporting requirements on removals in the Sportsmens Act of 2012; the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils decision to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters from both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to Secretary Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy. In June, a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups called for a halt to the Idle Iron policy in a letter to Secretary Salazar, citing the irreparable damage it stands to inflict on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems. Additionally, the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, an 18-member committee established to provide input to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recreational boating and fishing issues and aquatic resource conservation issues, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar calling for a two-year moratorium on rig removals.
â€œWe are grateful to all the elected officials who share our concern for this marine habitat and are willing to fight against arbitrarily dismantling the largest artificial reef system in the world,â€ said Pat Murray, president of CCA. â€œThe entire issue of platform removals needs a much more thorough review given the incredible habitat at stake. Political leaders and experts from across the spectrum have voiced serious concerns about the impacts of the Idle Iron directive and are demanding a more reasoned process to evaluate these structures.â€
Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel
Data... it runs the world. Everyone needs accurate and up to date data to run a business and make decisions. It is no different for fisheries managers that create the fishing regulations that we abide by, which is why Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University have developed the Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel. This panel will help aide the researchers in learning more about recreational fishing and the economic benefits gained from the recreational fisherman in Florida.
Many of you received an email within the last week regarding this panel that included a link to a registration page, and some of you have already signed on to participate. The panel is open to anyone that possesses a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License or Persons with Disabilities Resident Hunting and Fishing License, as well as exempt residents age 65 and older. â€œFWC is excited about the partnership with Michigan State University and the new opportunities that present themselves to us and all fisheries managers,â€ said Nick Wiley, FWC Executive Director. â€œThe Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel brings a new and exciting aspect to recreational fishing data collection.â€ A panel member will be asked to complete a 10-15 minute web based survey once a month for a one year period. While most of each survey will focus on the anglers last saltwater fishing trip in Florida during the previous month, surveys may also include questions about current or proposed fishing regulations, licenses, conservation of fish stocks and management effectiveness.
All panel members will receive a coupon from West Marine for each monthly survey they complete. Participants will also have the opportunity to review summary results from the monthly surveys. â€œI urge all CCA members, their family, and friends to take part in this saltwater fishing panel,â€ said Jeff Miller, CCA Florida Chairman. â€œJoining the panel and completing the survey helps show the economic impact the recreational fishermen have here in the state of Florida. It helps show the fisheries managers that allocation of fish should not be based on past catch records but allocated solely on the economic impact from a fishing sector. Recreational fishermen deserve more and here is a perfect opportunity to do your part in fisheries data collection.â€
Act Now to Stop the Destruction of Marine Habitat
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) shares the concerns of the recreational angling community and is calling for a temporary moratorium on the Department of Interiors controversial Idle Iron directive that stands to destroy the largest man-made reef in the world - the vast forest of rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Coastal Conservation Association applauds this effort by Rep. Palazzo as well as the support of other important Congressional leaders, and has been joined by the largest marine conservation, tackle and boating organizations in the country in the fight to protect this extensive artificial reef system. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of structures are on the chopping block as a result of the Idle Iron policy. A typical four-legged platform becomes the equivalent of two to three acres of vibrant habitat in the Gulf - home to populations of fish, coral, shellfish, turtles and sea mammals.
Rep. Palazzo is circulating a letter to members of Congress and inviting them to join him in calling for a temporary moratorium on rig removals related to the Idle Iron Policy to allow time to develop a thoughtful, rational process to evaluate those structures and keep as many as safely possible in the water. The letter has the support of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus leadership.
Please join Rep. Palazzo, CCA and the community of recreational anglers and divers fighting to protect these unique ecosystems. Click on the link below to send a message to your elected representatives and encourage them to add their signatures to the letter to the Department of Interior calling for a moratorium.
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