by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
In a cover story “Damage Control in the Gulf” on the $20 billion Justice Department settlement of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that polluted the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil, Capitol Hill’s CQ Magazine’s writers Mike Magner and Jeremy Dillion give an in-depth analysis of the recent agreement between the company and the Justice Department, as well as how it will affect the Gulf and Gulf seafood.
The Justice Department defended the settlement, the largest environmental penalty ever, as “just and reasonable.” The article explores the premise that the Gulf’s ecology “bounces back like a rubber band. But the question is, have we stretched it too far?”
CQ Magazine is part of CQ Roll Call which monitors and reports on policy developments and is a primary source for Capitol Hill news.
Quoted in the portion of the article covering a seafood industry that has been reeling since the explosion is Gulf Seafood Institute’s President Harlon Pearce. Pearce joined politicians, academia and other non-governmental organizations who were interviewed for the piece, including Sen. Richard Shelby, the Sierra Club, Ocean Conservancy, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.
Spending for environmental projects identified so far has focused mostly on planning and research, and in many cases the actual improvements are listed as tentative. Shrimp in the Gulf started to rebound in 2010, but oysters taking longer to recover.
Pearce told the publication that on the economic side the recovery in the Gulf region is well along with many businesses and individuals having been reimbursed for damages sustained in the early months of the spill.
“The big oyster guys made out well,” said Pearce. “One got between $50 million and $80 million. They’re crying all the way to the bank. The little guys didn’t do as well.”
Pearce said some of the many Gulf fisheries have bounced back, “Crabs are now all of a sudden exploding,” he told the publication. “Shrimp is OK — we haven’t lost any shrimp or crab plants.” He says crawfish, catfish, alligators and finfish are also recovering well.”
Texas, which has invested in the research centers, indicates a willingness to ensure resource sustainability and the promise to prevent a disaster of this scale from occurring again.
“We need to focus on science,” Pearce said. Other universities along the coast, including public schools in each state, have also launched research initiatives, but according to Pearce, they have not collaborated. “We want something sustainable that can keep going,” he says.
The 10-page article covers in depth both the environmental and economical impacts of the spill and the parameters of the Restore Act passed by Congress on how states could spend the money received from BP.