Florida Encourages Saltwater Fishing As Oil Looms Off Panama City

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission continues to keep state waters open to fishing despite contamination by the BP oil disaster, the Wonk Room has learned. On June 16, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) extended the federal fisheries closure to the federal waters seven miles off Panama City Beach. Meanwhile, the state encouraged fishing with the announcement that “all Florida residents and visitors are invited to fish statewide for saltwater species without a license during the upcoming Father’s Day weekend, June 19-20.” On June 19, tarballs began washing up on Panama City Beach. On June 20, the visible oil slick spread to one mile of the Panama City coast, well within the seven-mile state boundary, but the state did not put the waters off limits to fishing:

Panama City Slick
Satellite image of oil slick one mile off Panama City, FL, June 20, 2010, from University of Miami.

Gov. Charlie Crist’s (I-FL) office warned residents on June 21 that “the Florida Panhandle will continue to be threatened by shoreline contacts as far east as Panama City through Monday,” but the State Fish & Wildlife Commission kept the waters open, just off the impacted shore. Other than the “partial fishing closure in Escambia County” the commission belatedly imposed, the agency’s official position is that “the rest of Florida’s recreational and commercial fisheries have not been directly affected by the oil spill.”

Cross-posted on the Wonk Room.