AUSTIN – The beaches, parks and marshes of the Texas Gulf Coast are home to remarkable underwater ecosystems and diverse wildlife. All of these would be threatened by more offshore oil drilling, which is currently under debate in Washington D.C. According to Oceans Under the Gun, a new report written by Environment America and the Sierra Club, our beaches and oceans support a vibrant coastal tourism and fishing economy that generates $11 billion per year in Texas.
“Our oceans are truly ‘under the gun’, threatened by Big Oil and their allies in Congress who want to expand offshore drilling,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. “Our beaches and Gulf enable coastal businesses and jobs from tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing,” Metzger continued.
The report highlights the special marine ecosystems, treasured beaches and coastal parks, and extraordinary marine life in Texas. The Flower Garden Banks National Sanctuary, located about 100 miles off the Texas coast, is dedicated to the protection of more than 300 acres of protected reefs and underwater mountains called salt domes. This area is home to more than 23 species of coral, 80 types of algae, 250 invertebrate species and 175 different kinds of fish.
The Gulf has extensive oil and natural gas resources, threatening many of the habitats that make it so diverse. Earlier this month, 18,000 gallons of oil were leaked into the ocean off the coast of Galveston, Texas after an oil tanker collided with an offshore supply vessel. The more than 700 oil spills a year in Texas cause many problems for wildlife. Oil spills can poison the entire food chain in addition to causing hypothermia and drowning in birds and mammals whose bodies can become coated in the oil.
“Right now, the only thing some decision makers in Congress and state legislatures across the country are counting is barrels of oil in the ocean, not endangered species, special places or tourism dollars,” added Metzger. “They are ignoring the significant value of the sustainable activities on our coasts, like fishing, the value of wonderful marine environments. We want to change that mindset.”
“Texas is blessed with a number of wonderful beaches including Galveston, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island beaches, sensitive coastal estuaries, and unique marine wildlife”, said Metzger.
Over the next few months, Congress will decide whether to allow expanded drilling off our coasts as part of the energy and global warming legislation now moving through Congress. The eastern Gulf of Mexico is the area most at risk, but other regions like California, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast are also threatened by some proposals.
“Our research makes it clear that our beaches and coastal parks are worth more than drilling for the last drops of oil that will serve us for a few weeks or months. It’s time to protect our coasts from more spilling and drilling,” Metzger concluded.