Oil Spill Threatens Billion Dollar Everglades Sport Fishing Industry | Outdoor Channel
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Oil Spill Threatens Billion Dollar Everglades Sport Fishing Industry


From The Outdoor Wire

Palmetto Bay, Florida - If the expanding Gulf oil spill cannot be contained, South Florida stands to lose a significant portion of the $1.2 billion a year in economic activity generated by recreational, or "sport" fishing alone, according to a new study conducted by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust that was funded in part by the Everglades Foundation.

According to the report, "The Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing in the Everglades Region," sport fishing in the Everglades generates about $722 million annually in retail sales of equipment and related expenditures. This popular activity produces more than $378 million in wages that support 12,391 full-time equivalent jobs and brings in tax revenues exceeding $90 million (federal) and $72 million (state and local) from Florida's 13 southernmost counties.

More than 8,000 jobs linked to saltwater sport fishing could be jeopardized if oil reaches the Everglades region. Of primary concern is the oil spill's potential impact on more than $883 million in economic impact associated with saltwater sport fish including bonefish, redfish, snook, sea trout and tarpon. This accounts for 71 percent of the $1.2 billion in Everglades Region's sport fish economic impact. The study also provides an economic analysis of freshwater fishing expenditures linked to popular species such as largemouth bass and catfish.

The study is the result of a survey of more than 1,600 anglers who were asked about the number of days they fished in the region, what they fished for and their related expenditures.

"We originally funded this study to quantify how much the Everglades had to contribute, economically. Sadly, it now tells us what we stand to lose," said Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation CEO. "This potential tragedy makes our mission of preserving and restoring America's Everglades even more urgent."

The survey was limited to Florida residents and did not take into account those anglers who travel from out of state to fish in the Everglades Region, thus the actual economic contribution -- and potential loss -- would likely be much greater than the findings suggest. Those who make a living from professions ranging from fishing guides to operating boat charter services could suffer significant financial setbacks and even secondary industries dependent on sport fishing such as boat manufacturers, fishing gear and apparel makers could be negatively impacted should the spill reach the Everglades Region.

"The spill has really put the findings in a new light for me," said study author, fisheries economics specialist Tony Fedler, Ph.D. "The study now speaks to how fragile our environment is, how dependent we are on it and the consequences of failing to protect it."

Aaron Adams, Ph.D., director of operations for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, added, "In a worst case scenario, oil reaches the mangrove habitats that serve as nurseries for so many of the game fish that support this sport fishing community, which would have far-reaching consequences. Juvenile tarpon, for example, which are the future of the fishery, depend on healthy mangrove habitats. When you look at tarpon, the potential impacts are not limited to South Florida - adult tarpon annually migrate into the northern Gulf of Mexico and, on the east coast, as far north as the Chesapeake Bay. This event underscores the need for our resource managers to see the whole picture when they make decisions about resource use."

The 13 southernmost counties included in the study -- known as "the Everglades Region" -- are: Osceola, Highlands, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Glades, Lee, Hendry, Palm Beach, Collier, Broward, Monroe and Miami-Dade. Recreational saltwater fishing was limited to the shallows of Florida Bay on the northern side of the Florida Keys.

A complete copy of the study can be found by clicking here or by visiting the Everglades Foundation website Media Center and Resources section and accessing the Reports and Survey dropdown at http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/pages/reports-and-surveys/.

The Everglades Foundation and conservation, business and sporting organizations from across the country will convene on May 19-20 in Washington, D.C., for the first-ever America's Everglades Summit to support continued investment in Everglades restoration. Discussions on the economic value of the Everglades ecosystem will be integral to Summit proceedings. For more information on the Summit, visit http://www.evergladesummit.org.

The Foundation's position is that the health of the Everglades is not only vital to the environment, but also to the economy and quality of life in South Florida. The organization has assembled a team of scientists, policy experts and communications professionals and works with partners on several fronts to educate, advocate and litigate--when necessary--to advance Everglades restoration. In addition, the Foundation provides grants to like-minded local, national and international organizations and collaborates with other business, civic and environmental groups to form coalitions and set priorities to move restoration initiatives forward.

About Florida's Relationship with the Everglades

More than seven million people live in the Everglades watershed and depend on its natural systems for their livelihood, food, and drinking water. Florida's agriculture, boating, tourism, real estate, recreational and commercial fishing industries all depend on a healthy Everglades ecosystem, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and contributing billions to our economy. Its waters flow through Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Biscayne National Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Together, these parks draw several million visitors each year, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Florida's tourism economy.

About the Everglades Foundation Mission

The Everglades Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, charitable organization dedicated to protecting and restoring one of the world's unique natural ecosystems that provides economic, recreational and life-sustaining benefits to the millions of people who depend on its future health. Since 1993, the Everglades Foundation has played a leadership role in advancing Everglades restoration through the advancement of scientifically sound and achievable solutions. The Foundation seeks to reverse the damage inflicted on the ecosystem and provides policymakers and the public with an honest and credible resource to help guide decision-making on complex restoration issues. For more information, visit www.evergladesfoundation.org.

Continue to monitor the Gulf Oil Spill here on OutdoorChannel.com

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