Report of Gulf’s Fishing Demise Unfounded

A charter boat angler in Louisiana hoists a nice catch with the wrecked Deepwater Horizon Rig in the background.


We’ve all seen the images of oil soaked birds waddling on a blackened beach.   The cable TV news has offered video of a raft of dead fish floating amid a witch’s brew of brownish water.   We watched emergency boats from the Coast Guard and other agencies desperately trying to stretch floating booms across a wide expanse of open water.    It’s the image most of the United States population associates with the 2010 fire and ensuing blowout of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

However, we’re a year beyond the initial response.   Today, there are indications those same images may not be telling the full story.

"It will be a long time before we really have a true idea of the full impact of the oil spill," said Chris Macalusa with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. "I would say in the short term, it could have been a lot worse."

Macalusa is no oil company sympathizer, but also isn’t an environmental extremist either.  He’s a sportsman interested in protecting a fishery he’s used his entire life.   He laments other actions from the past which he believes have done far more damage to the region than the BP spill.    He cites the construction of an intercoastal canal.  The man-made waterway linking the Mississippi River to the Gulf in the 1940’s, in his mind, caused far more damage to the fishery than BP could have done.

He says the most damage left from the last spring’s disaster–isn’t in the water–it’s on the air…literally.

Despite the BP Spill, a year later, anglers report tremendous fishing in the Gulf of Mexico in the shadow of the disaster

"I’ve been on the water probably 20-times since the oil spill and I haven’t noticed any detrimental impact to the fishing," he said in a recent interview on West Virginia Outdoors. "Now we have been fighting a significant public relations battle in that a lot of our charter boat captains and our commercial fishermen aren’t able to market their products."

He says there’s a sense seafood from the Gulf, since BP’s blowout, is tainted and unsafe,   although all tests conducted thus far show no problems with consuming the marine life from Louisiana.   Fishing, both commercially and via charter, are the region’s other major employers outside the oil industry. 

"We continue to see parts of our coast that are oiled.  We’re still seeing tar balls wash up on the beach, but for right now there would be no reason to not come here and go fishing," explained Macalusa. "There are still isolated parts of the coast where it’s still there and really the best thing to do for a lot of those places now is to let Mother Nature run her course and start handling that material for herself."

Tar balls and oil slicks are not unusual in Louisiana.  The region has long been dotted with crude seeps which occurred naturally.  The Deepwater Horizon was on a much larger scale than most–but as such, Macalusa thinks it will just take longer than most to recover.  

He says one thing he noticed soon after the spill was the abundance of marine life actually increased–rather than decreased.  He believes the unusual scenario had less to do with the well fire and more to do with the restrictions government regulators placed on the commercial fishing industry.

"In some of those areas I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that many fish, shrimp, or marine life in one particular area," he explained. "Shrimp trawls don’t just catch shrimp they catch a lot of other things and some of these areas where they were off limits to commercial harvest, the shrimp numbers were enormous and the fish in there feeding on them was incredible."

Macalusa is quick to say his observation isn’t a knock on the commercial fishing industry.  He believes the trawlers play a vital role in providing fresh seafood to the entire country. 

"I’m not going to say it was better, it was just different," said Macalusa. 


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