BP Oil Spill Draws Thousands of Concerned Sportsmen to Virtual Town Hall

Hunters and anglers concerned about ecological and wildlife impacts

05-06-2010 // Tony Iallonardo

Man with fish he caught

A virtual town hall hosted by National Wildlife Federation tonight drew over 9,000 hunters and anglers concerned about the tremendous ecological and wildlife impacts of the BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast. The area is a draw for hunters and anglers nationwide and often called a “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Louisiana’s coast sustains one of the world's largest fisheries, produces the largest catch of redfish, hosts up to 20 percent of the nation’s wintering waterfowl and is home to more than 400 species of birds, fish and wildlife. The whole Gulf Coast is bracing for what could be the worst oil spill in America's history.

According to www.vanishingparadise.org, a joint project of NWF and Ducks Unlimited, more than 400 fish and wildlife species rely on coastal Louisiana habitats for food, cover, and breeding.

  • Marine mammals, including West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, and blue whales, can come into contact with oil and inhale harmful fumes.
  • Egrets, herons, ibises, roseate spoonbills, brown pelicans and Wilson’s plovers (to name just a few) can suffer a loss of buoyancy and the ability to keep warm; skin and eye lesions; and ulcers, pneumonia, liver damage, and other life-threatening conditions from ingesting oil.
  • Yellowfin tuna, blue tuna, blue crabs, sharks, oysters, shrimp and other species lose their ability to fight disease and experience a build-up of contaminants in their bodies over time.

 

NWF IN ACTION
For days now, NWF has had a team on the ground in Venice, Louisiana, leading boat tours of the region and has served as a focal point for volunteer activism and media inquiries. Leading the team is NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger who spoke about what he’s witnessed over the last several days.

“With a huge volume of oil flowing in the Gulf of Mexico unabated, we clearly have an epic catastrophe unfolding,” Schweiger said. “The greatest coastal wetland system in America is at the height of spring wildlife nesting season. It now faces what may be the largest oil spill in the nation’s history. It is hard to imagine a more dire situation.”


Also on the phone was Bob Marshall, Times Picayune outdoor staff writer and conservation editor-at-large for Field and Stream. He spoke about his personal connection to the Gulf Coast and his alarm at what may be in store.

“This river of oil is still flowing out of the Gulf [and] these toxins will stay in the marsh mud for years,” said Marshall. “We need your help to turn this around.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP
NWF has set up a web site for concerned members, sportsmen and the general public to help wildlife impacted by the spill. This is the place to

  • Make a donation to help wildlife survive this ecological disaster,
  • Urge Congress to act quickly for cleaner energy choices, and
  • Help spread the word via social media like Twitter and Facebook.

 

Coastal Louisiana was already in trouble prior to the spill. Levees built for flood control have straight-jacketed the Mississippi River. Instead of spreading nutrient-rich sediment that builds and sustains the delta and surrounding wetlands, the sediment funnels into the Gulf of Mexico. Canals dredged for navigation and oil gas extraction have carved up the once-vast coastal wetland system. The canals accelerate saltwater intrusion, destroying the protective cypress forests and replacing brackish and freshwater wetlands with degraded salt marshes.

Coupled with sea-level rise caused by global warming, Louisiana is losing the equivalent of about two football fields of land every hour. Schweiger made clear that restoration of Coastal Louisiana and a clean energy future would be priorities NWF would aggressively pursue.


For audio of the town hall visit www.nwf.org/oilspill and for more information on gulf coast restoration, visit www.vanishingparadise.org.

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