Time to Weigh in on the Future of Gulf Fishing

You’ve probably heard about the RESTORE Act and the GoCoast 2020 Commission, you haven’t been paying close attention to the decisions being made about your valuable Gulf waters, now is the time. Understanding how restoration funds will be used and whether anglers will be affected could be as important to you as knowing how to tie a good fishing knot.

The RESTORE Act is a bipartisan bill developed under the leadership of the Mississippi congressional delegation that directs fine money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to the Gulf states. This legislation includes importantenvironmental andeconomic provisions that will benefit the Gulf ’s angling community. To decide how Mississippi will utilize its share of the billions of dollars that will come to the state from the RESTORE Act, Governor Phil Bryant formed the GoCoast 2020 Commission.

The commission is comprised of 100 coastal leaders and has been tasked with preparing a report that will chart a future for Mississippi and the Gulf.eight sub-committees will draft recommendations on how to potentially use RESTORE Act funds, and Governor Bryant included recreational fishing interests and commercial industry on the seafood subcommittee. This committee is looking at a wide range of issues from marketing, habitat restoration and land-based infrastructure needs to long-term research andeducation that can benefit the fishery. Issues important to fishermen were also included on theeco-restoration, and research andeducation subcommittees.

Governor Bryant held three preliminary information-gathering sessions ineach coastal county in October, and we hope the GoCoast Commission continues toengage in a public dialogue as their draft report is developed. Continued open dialogue and two- way communication will give the angling community the opportunity to review and comment on the Commission’s recommendations. Ocean Conservancy applauds the GoCoast 2020 Commission for the process and work they have done to date andexpect more of the same.
We must seize the opportunity to fully restore the people,economy andenvironment of the Gulf Coast, including the marineenvironment where the BP oil disaster occurred. It’s important that all of us stayengaged in the BP oil disaster recovery process as federal money becomes available because these dollars will be the main source of funds for marine restoration, research and long-term monitoring in the Gulf.

If you have ideas for how the RESTORE funds can benefit the recreational fishery, weencourage you to submit ideas through the GoCoast 2020 idea portal at www.gocoast2020.com.
Readers of this magazine know that fishing in the coastal and marine waters of the Gulf is not only aneconomic driver but a defining cultural and recreational activity for us. Decisions made today about state and federal BP oil disaster recoveryefforts could affect your angling future, so make sure you are involved. We have one Gulf and one chance to fully restore it, and now is the time for you to weigh in on your future.

Bethany Kraft is Ocean Conservancy’s director of Gulf Restoration. She’s a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. “Ocean Conservancyeducates andempowers citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean. From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico to the halls of Congress, Ocean Conservancy brings people together to find solutions for our water planet. Informed by science, our work guides policy andengages people in protecting the ocean and its wildlife for future generations.”