As part of the Gulf Coast “Restoration” Projects initiatives, Big Rock Sports’ Chris Flocken and Half Hitch Tackle owner Tom Putnam participated in one of 5 regional workshops in May to help determine how to best utilize funds from the $1 billion provided by BP for early restoration of the oil spill. The regional workshops were conducted by members of The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC) and the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). According to Chris Macalus from TRCP, “the purpose was to discuss and develop a list of projects that can repair the impacts to recreational fishing….with focus on top priorities for fishermen on both the state level and for the entire Gulf.”
Highlighting some of the key recommendations from the Orange Beach, AL, meeting, bottom mapping and bio-diversity mapping of the entire Gulf that is currently not available would be very beneficial. “Offshore mapping would help Florida immensely in gathering data to help in knowing where to place bottom structure,” noted Tom Putnam. Another key suggestion was better inshore markings and mapping to better protect grass beds and other areas from boaters, jet skiers and pontoon boat rentals who do not realize the degradation caused by navigating in these areas.
Another hot topic of conversation was access to fisheries, both physically and legally. “More and better boat ramps and parking are sorely needed,” stated Tom Putnam. Chris Flocken also noted: “More frequent and accurate stock assessments are badly needed, and a great way to use some of the Restoration Funding.”
Attendees at these meetings also included other members of the sportfishing industry, charter boat operators, and individual anglers. In addition to the meeting held in Orange Beach, AL, similar meetings were held in Tampa, FL; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; and Houston, TX.