As millions of Americans flock to beaches around the country, Environment Texas reported that beach closings and warnings due to pollution went up last year in Texas, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s 18th annual beach water quality report. The group called for increased federal funding and faster testing for beachwater pollution and decried efforts to open protected coastlines to offshore drilling.
Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the report, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, tallied 532 beach closing and health advisory days in 2007 in Texas, an eleven percent jump from the year before. In Texas, 49 percent of the closing and advisory days were caused by high bacteria levels resulting from storm water run-off. Another 49 per cent were high bacteria levels from unknown sources.
“Some families can’t enjoy a day at the beach because the water is polluted and kids are getting sick,” said Brittany Ballard, Citizen Outreach Director for Environment Texas. “Texas beachgoers should not be swimming in human and animal waste.”
Houston, Texas— Federal data show that in 2007 nearly three out of ten Gulf of Mexico fish species for which there is adequate information were overfished or were caught faster than they can reproduce, a condition known as overfishing. For 67 percent (36 out of 54) of the species in the Gulf that the federal government oversees there is not enough information to know whether the populations are healthy or not, according to a report released by Environment Texas today.
“With depleted numbers of red snapper and great amberjack, declining loggerhead sea turtle populations, and an annual dead zone, the Gulf of Mexico is in trouble,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “It’s very troubling that almost thirty percent of the Gulf’s fish species are overfished. But even worse news is that we only know how healthy a third of our fish are at best. We are fishing blind on the other two thirds.”
The Save the Bait Coalition today called on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPW) to protect what has been called “the most important fish in the sea” in Texas’ coastal waters. A diverse coalition of businesses and advocacy groups is seeking a science-based catch limit, observers to document wasteful fishing practices, and accountability measures to make sure catch limits are not exceeded for menhaden, a primary prey fish for finfish, seabirds, and dolphins.
The coalition is also asking the Texas state government to push for a Gulf-wide scientific assessment of menhaden that includes the important role the fish plays as prey for predators and as a “dead zone” fighting filter feeder. “With this assessment Texas can set a science-based catch limit that ensures enough menhaden are left in the water to feed predators and Texas’ bays and estuaries have clean water,” said Luke Metzger the Director of Environment Texas.
We applaud the School Land Board for rejecting bids by private interests to buy the Christmas Mountains. The Christmas Mountains were donated to the people of Texas to be used as a public wilderness area and the sale to private interests was contrary to the wishes of the land's original donors and of more than 10,000 Texans who submitted comments to the Commissioner Patterson and the Board.
Today's decision by the School Land Board to postpone the sale of the Christmas Mountains for ninety days is encouraging news. Yesterday, Commissioner Patterson announced that he would push the two other members of the School Land Board to accept one of the two private bids for the Christmas Mountains and gave an ultimatum to the National Park Service to change their policy on hunting or lose their right to try to add the property to Big Bend National Park. That did not happen, so clearly the other two board members are not comfortable with this deal. We thank Todd Barth and David Herrmann for respecting the strong public opposition to this sale and for seeking out a better solution.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.