The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi was recognized for exceptional leadership in Gulf Coast preservation efforts.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program presented the Mississippi department the first place 2017 Gulf Guardian Award in the Partnerships Category. A ceremony was held at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear, Alabama, where the award was received.
"Whether for individual recreational use or as an economic engine supporting a wide variety of jobs and industry, the Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant yet vulnerable ecosystem," said Ben Scaggs, Gulf of Mexico Program Director.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources collaborated with the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in 1999 to establish a program to remove derelict crab traps in the Mississippi Sound and nearby rivers.
A derelict trap can be defined as a trap, which is un-buoyed, unmarked and abandoned. More than 21,500 derelict traps have been removed from Mississippi waters since the start of the program.
The majority of the traps removed are from coastal marshes, which are critical nursery ground habitat for many marine animals. The program also helps prevent navigational hazards to boaters occurring when traps are caught in the propellers.
Removing such traps not only benefits the environment, but preserves the aesthetic integrity of Mississippi's bodies of water.
Scaggs noted, "Protecting this national resource requires innovative approaches and proactive measures. The Gulf Guardian award winners are paving the way for 'out of the box' thinking and replicable practices."
The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive.
The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies.
Since 1988, it aims to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways.
For more information about the Gulf of Mexico Program, visit www.epa.gov/gmpo.