The Hatcher Group is proud to support the Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project, which has successfully helped restore fish in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to participation from area pelagic (open sea) longline fishermen who have reduced fishing pressure on pelagic fish species. As a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many pelagic fish in the Gulf were injured or killed. Fishermen are stepping up to restore fish affected by the oil spill through this project — organized by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — which has focused on reducing bycatch (incidental catch of nontargeted species) to support healthy, robust populations of fish. Since 2017, about half of the pelagic longline fleet in the Gulf has chosen to participate in the temporary project, which has two parts: 1.) The initiative compensates volunteer vessel owners to refrain from using pelagic longline gear during a six-month repose each year. 2.) During the repose, participants have the option to continue to fish using alternative gear. NFWF and NOAA needed help communicating this complex project to their targeted audiences, including fishermen, many of whom lack trust in federal agencies and are non-English speaking.
The Hatcher Group has led the communications work for the project since its inception — researching, developing, and executing a communications strategy, and creating easy-to-understand materials to engage participants and other target audiences. Our work has changed behaviors and shown proven results. Each year, more than half of eligible vessel owners have applied to participate in the project. The project has exceeded its goal every year (2017–2019), allowing approximately 25,000 pounds of fish per participating vessel to remain in the Gulf of Mexico each year. Hatcher rebid on this work in 2019, due to government contract requirements, and won the contract through the remainder of the project, which will likely end in 2022.