FWC, along with all the rest of Florida, stands prepared
As I See It
Monday, May 17, 2010
Media contact: Rodney Barreto
We often take for granted all the things that make
our life easy until something happens to make us sit up and take
notice. This happened in late April, when the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico brought us all to attention.
So far, Florida's fish and wildlife remain safe
from the impact of oil coming ashore, and we hope for the best. The
longer that oil stays out at sea, the better it is for our
estuaries and marshes where the fish and wildlife spawn and nest.
We are still the Fishing Capital of the World.
It took thousands of years for folks to realize the
thick, tar-like substance bubbling up out of the earth might have
some use in our lives. That discovery fueled centuries of new
inventions and technology to enable people to live longer and in
comfort. Part of the price was a contaminated environment.
We are now a society dependent upon that petroleum,
but with that dependence comes the certainty that we must take
responsibility for any consequences. It is true that BP leads the
effort to contain and clean up the spill from its wellhead, but
others have stepped forth to assist as well.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) is working closely with the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP), the lead agency in the state for
responding to the oil spill. Both the FWC and DEP are involved in
gathering pre-assessment data, along with many other agencies, such
as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
At the FWC, we stand ready to minimize harm to
wildlife affected by the oil spill, if oil should come ashore. The
FWC is involved in the strategic planning that will attempt to
secure the spill to prevent damage to Florida and its outstanding
resources. Our scientists are mapping high-priority fish and
wildlife habitats to help focus protective measures, and they are
conducting biological assessments to establish a baseline for
measuring the severity of potential harm to fish and wildlife.
Volunteers immediately began calling the FWC and
other agencies to find out how they could help when news broke that
the oil could reach Florida. I am encouraged by this outpouring of
support, and the FWC thanks all those who make wildlife a
However, this crisis situation differs from other
disasters we've faced in Florida, from hurricanes and flooding to
droughts and fires. If an oiled fish washes ashore or wildlife
covered in oil appears distressed, some of us will be tempted to
rush out and rescue the animal. However, that will not be the best
course of action for either the wildlife or the Good Samaritan.
This crisis involves hazardous materials that need
to be handled by properly trained personnel for the safety of you
and for the survival of the wildlife you think you might be
Attempting to rescue wildlife distressed by the oil
could further distress the animal. Your presence could have the
opposite of the intended effect. Distressed wildlife can be
dangerous as they fight to survive. You also are putting yourself
at risk by touching the oil. Nobody wins in this situation, and
while our well-intentioned actions may seem helpful, they are
It is best to let the trained professionals take
over, and there are plenty of them and even more coming on board to
receive the necessary training to assist. All oil-contaminated
wildlife will be handled by trained workers.
As we go through the long process of preparing,
protecting and then cleaning up any potential oil residue that
reaches our shores, there will be plenty of opportunities to
Volunteer Florida is an active participant in the
oil spill response and encourages those who want to assist to get
involved locally through affiliated pre-landfall beach cleanups,
fundraising and assisting with the needs of all the organizations
involved in the response. Remember all beach cleanups should come
through organized efforts. For more information on how to help,
We're all in this together.
The FWC will do everything possible to protect
Florida's fish and wildlife, and that's why I've called for an
emergency meeting with our agency's staff. This meeting is
unprecedented, but so is the oil spill that could possibly affect
our natural resources.
The meeting will be May 19 at 10 a.m. at TradeWinds
Island Grand in St. Pete Beach. Visit MyFWC.com/Commission for more
Florida's fish and wildlife have the very best
resources working for their protection and survival.