June 01, 2009

Stephanie Short

The Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans, LA

The Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans, LA

This summer I received a stipend to work for the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The GRN is a conservation advocacy group that focuses on environmental issues affecting the gulf coast. The organization advocates for the conservation and restoration of wetlands, sustainable fisheries management in the Gulf, and enforcement of water quality standards. Its successes include moving Congress to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which funneled storm surge into New Orleans during Katrina, and convincing ex-Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco to veto the proposal for an open-loop liquid natural gas system in the Gulf of Mexico.

My position at the GRN was as the Fisheries Legal Intern.  Most of my work revolved around the Gulf Menhaden fishery, which is the second largest fishery by mass in the United States and is largely unregulated. This is particularly important because menhaden are at the base of the Gulf food chain, so many commercial fisheries rely on them for food. So if the menhaden population is unhealthy many other fisheries will be unhealthy as well. I spent most of my time researching the legal means of getting the various state agencies that oversee the fishery to properly regulate it.  This meant I researched several different environmental statutes, ranging from the Endangered Species Act to the Marine Protection, Resources, and Sanctuaries Act. My biggest accomplishment was researching Menhaden processing plants that had habitually violated the  Clean Water Act. This research may ultimately result in litigation against that corporation. I also had the opportunity to attend meetings of the Mississippi Marine Resources Commission, lobby Louisiana congressmen to support environmental legislation, and canvass for the GRN at Bonnaroo! Ultimately, my work with GRN was rewarding, interesting and diverse—I was able to meet wonderful people and learn a tremendous amount about environmental advocacy in the state I want to practice in!