Marine concerns prompt federal fisheries disaster request

As flooding concerns persist on the Gulf Coast, the Bonnet Carré Spillway remains open, but environmental concerns are mounting. In the midst of those concerns, Governor Phil Bryant has penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, requesting a federal fisheries disaster declaration for Mississippi. 

In his letter, Governor Bryant states that the introduction of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound has had a negative impact on marine life, including oysters, crabs shrimp and finfish. 

He says that the current oyster mortality rate is estimated at 70% and it is expected to rise as the spillway stays open. Crab landings are also estimated at a 35% loss. 

During a recent meeting on the Coast, Joe Spraggins, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, also attributed 84 dolphin and 126 sea turtle deaths to the introduction of the freshwater. 

Related: Dead dolphins, sea turtles – Coast Mayors discuss solutions

The Governor ended his letter, which was sent on May 31st, by saying that a disaster declaration “may assist in obtaining financial assistance for all negatively impacted ecosystems, fisherman and related businesses in a timely manner.”

In his thread of tweets, Bryant explained that he has also asked Southern Miss to work with Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, as well as the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, “to conduct a full assessment of impacts to marine resources as well as other ecosystem impacts due to the opening of the Spillway.”

Attorney General Jim Hood will meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later this month to discuss the impact that the opening of the spillway has had on the ecosystem and the economy.