A Glimpse Of The Gulf

by Chris Landers

Photo of three men fishing in the Gulf Of Mexico

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) takes another look at the Gulf Coast region in a new report highlighting the economic importance of a region battered by natural and man-made disasters in recent years. “The Gulf of Mexico at a Glance: A Second Glance” is a follow-up to a 2008 report from NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce, along with the Gulf Coast Alliance, which is made up of the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The report relies on the latest federal figures, almost all of which predate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. Thus, it doesn’t include subsequent closures of recreational and commercial fisheries, but it paints a picture of the Gulf’s importance in previous years that should be helpful in the continuing restoration and rebuilding of the region.

In 2009, according to the report, almost a third of recreational fishing trips in the country, some 23 million, were taken in the Gulf of Mexico, and accounted for 44 percent of the recreational catch in the United States. The report details the top recreational catches by weight, using National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) numbers for 2009. In 2010, those same numbers show a dramatic drop-off for fish caught offshore, where oil spill-related closures occurred.

Red snapper catches showed the most dramatic decrease — 55 percent measured by weight — while fish found closer to shore were less affected. (Red drum catches actually showed an increase of 10 percent.) Data collected by the NMFS show a 30-percent drop in the number of charter fishing trips for the same period.