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Gulf of Mexico: It’s time to check the health of the gulf from the Florida Keys to the Texas coast. Growing concern over reports of sick red snapper and other fish being caught in the wake of last year’s BP oil spill has pushed federal officials to fund an ambitious survey of the entire gulf using commercial and recreational fishermen as key partners. 

The study will be led by William Hogarth, Florida Institute of Oceanography, and Steve Murawski, University of South Florida, both former federal fisheries officials. Researchers from USF have previous found plankton in the deep gulf exhibiting genetic mutations, as well as bad sediment on the gulf floor they’ve dubbed a “dirty bathtub ring.” Concurrently, researchers at Louisiana State University recently reported their expedition into waters 1,200 feet deep revealed about 20 percent of the fish caught had visible signs of disease.

While no one is certain any of this is a result of the oil spill, clearly the jury is still out on the long-term impact of the spill. Let’s face it - who doesn’t struggle with reports that all the oil was scooped up, burned off and miraculously evaporated! BP is reportedly pushing the court to dismiss many claims that they contend don’t fall under the Oil Pollution Control Act. While I can’t confirm it, possibly many claims by marinas and dealers directly hurt by the spill are among those BP is trying to shed. One thing is clear: the courts should refuse to be rushed, and the studies now beginning should be completed.

Kudos to Cleveland: In the heart of downtown Cleveland, is the beautiful North Coast Harbor (with no docks) surrounding by the world famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center. For more than a decade, boaters in Cleveland tried to convince officials to install transient docks in that harbor. Persistence pays! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Ohio a $1.45 million grant through its Boating Infrastructure Grant Program. An additional $500,000-plus will come from the Ohio Division of Watercraft to build 53 floating transient slips along with a building containing showers, restrooms, laundry facilities and other amenities. Funds for the BIG program come from excise taxes on fishing tackle and fuel taxes paid by boaters into the Sportfishing Restoration Fund (commonly called Wallop-Breaux fund.)

The Cole Amendment: The proposed Executive Order President Obama wants to issue that could require key employees, board members and officers of companies and non-profits to report personal political campaign contributions drew genuine push-back from Congress when the House passed an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. The Cole amendment essentially precludes such an Executive Order. Some 71 associations (including Marine Retailers Associaiton of America) and chambers of commerce sent a letter to all house members supporting the Cole amendment just before the vote which was 261-163 in favor. It’s attached to a Department of Defense authorization bill that now moves on to the senate. A tip of the fedora to Rep. Cole.

Cutting Business Red Tape: Last week, the White House announced plans to cut federal red tape it claims could save billions of dollars for businesses in response to complaints that there are undue regulatory burdens now. According to the announcement, everything the federal government regulates has been reviewed and initiatives are being undertaken “to eliminate tens of millions of hours of reporting burdens and billions of dollars in regulatory costs.”

Now, I always like to be positive in this blog – after all, I’m a subscriber to the Thom Dammrich (National Marine Manufacturers Association president) viewpoint that “the glass is always half full.” But, come on – on this one, why am I feeling like the White House is trying to slip something into my sippy cup?

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