News Releases

FWC commissioners tour oil spill impact areas in Northwest Florida

News Release

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Media contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spent Tuesday on a daylong fact-finding tour to get a first-hand look at how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is affecting Northwest Florida's fish and wildlife.

Tuesday evening, commissioners hosted a public forum in Pensacola Beach to learn more about how the spill is affecting residents' livelihoods.

Commissioners took an aerial tour over Pensacola Bay and parts of the coast where they observed streamers of oil and sheen approaching Florida waters.  They also saw the role the FWC is playing by providing more than 30 boats and several aircraft to spot oil and direct skimmer boats to trouble spots.

FWC commissioners also toured a Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research facility contracted by BP to rescue and rehabilitate oiled birds.

"We are pleased this facility has been established to rehabilitate wildlife but want to convey it's critical for animals to be quickly recovered once they have been reported," FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said.

Oiled-wildlife should be reported by calling 866-557-1401.

Commissioner Brian Yablonski said the crisis calls for a bigger and faster response.

"We need a better response to oil in the water," Yablonski said. "Florida needs to get more and bigger skimmers to collect oil, and BP-contracted vessels must move more quickly to collect and control oil in the water."

At the 5 p.m. meeting, commissioners heard staff reports about FWC working closely with stakeholders and partners to manage Florida's response to the crisis.

Commissioners and staff took note of comments about the BP claims process to compensate people and businesses hard hit by direct oil impacts and damages resulting from a mistaken perception of widespread oil impacts to Florida.

"The first line of support is through the BP claims office at 800-440-0858," FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley said.  "Small business loans are an important asset, too, and businesses can get disaster assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)."

"Low-interest loans can be processed quickly," SBA's Mark Randle told commissioners.

People can contact the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The FWC will continue to support Florida's emergency response team and the incident command to monitor and respond to developments.

The FWC's next regular meeting will be June 23-24 in Lake Mary near Orlando.



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