By Brent Fewell
The family and I were watching the national news the other night and saw this undercover video about major fish kills of red snapper (hundreds of thousands of pounds) and other ocean life as a result of a federal program aimed at ridding the Gulf of Mexico of abandoned oil rigs. The silver lining to this photo – if there is any – is there appears to be a fairly healthy population of red snapper in the GOM, the bad news is these guys doing the back stroke are no longer part of the population. Sadly, many fishermen and their families depend upon these fisheries for a living.
My friend, Jeff Crane, over at the Congressional Sportmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Patrick Murray over at Coastal Conservation Association highlighted here and here have been working around the clock to put a stop to this seemingly senseless destruction of marine life and ecosystems. Appears that Department of Interior, with all good intentions, implemented what’s called the “Idle Iron Policy” in October 2010 (found here) shortly after the calamitous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The purpose of the policy is to require the closure and removal of hundreds of abandoned structures in the GOM. Turns out that when you blow up a rig with dynamite, not only do you take out the manmade structure, you pretty much destroy an underwater sanctuary to fish, turtle, coral, and other marine life that have thrived in the shadows of these artificial structures.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement requires an environmental assessment and Section 7 consultation under ESA for the removal of structures, including the use of explosives. Not clear to me why it’s taken so long to reverse or amend a policy that clearly is having fairly significant impacts on the endemic residents. Haven’t heard whether DOI has responded to these latest concerns and changed its policy. Perhaps reviewers know the latest developments. Will keep folks updated on this story. I’m hopeful we’ll witness an act of good government, and reevaluate the scope and extent of this policy.
[Update: Jeff Crane contacted me since this posting and offered an update based on CSF’s recent meeting with DOI here. Jeff mentioned that CSF will be highlighting this issue during a congressional briefing breakfast on April 24. Sounds like positive headway being made with the good people over at DOI].