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Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks and Families Receives Second Place Gulf Guardian Award in the Environmental Justice/Cultural Diversity Category

Release Date: 06/07/2013
Contact Information: William McBride, 404-562-8378 (direct), 404-562-8400 (main), mcbride.william@epa.gov

Stennis Space Center, MS – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks and Families (MSCVAFF) will receive a Second Place 2013 Gulf Guardian Award in the Environmental Justice/Cultural Diversity Category. The awards ceremony will be held on June 26, 2013, at the Tampa Bay Grand Hyatt beginning at 6PM.

The MSCVAFF Coastal Restoration: Education and Community Engagement Project promotes community education and empowerment with a particular focus on engagement in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) and the Coastal Restoration process in Mississippi. As a result of the BP Oil Spill’s devastating impact to the ecosystem, fisheries and other natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, Vietnamese-American fisher folks expressed their likelihood of being able to continue fishing as one of their primary concerns. In 2011, to start addressing this community priority, MSCVAFF initiated the above referenced community education and empowerment program with a particular focus on engagement in NRDA and the Coastal Restoration process in Mississippi. MSCVAFF utilized the important strategy of grassroots organizing to influence policy. MSCVAFF increased and strengthened efforts to conduct targeted outreach, addressed language access needs, and organized a series of focus groups/ community meetings for the purpose of helping fisher folks become more educated on the coastal restoration process and its critical link to their livelihoods.

In 2012, MSCVAFF continued its outreach efforts and over 80 Vietnamese-American fisher folks attended a NRDA/ Early Coastal Restoration training that MSCVAFF helped facilitate. They provided both translated materials and simultaneous interpretation by qualified interpreters. With the aid of MSCVAFF staff, the fisher folks were provided a forum to conceptualize project ideas (e.g., shrimp aquaculture and oyster farming) that could potentially be considered for a coastal restoration selection project and ultimately implemented. Soon thereafter over 50 fisher folks attended a series of Early Coastal Restoration public meetings in each of the coastal counties. As a result of MSCVAFF’s organized forums and focus groups on Phase 1of Mississippi’s Draft Early Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (DERP/ EA), over 170 comments were submitted to the Federal Council of Trustees as well as the to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the State NRDA trustee for Mississippi.

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. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.

“This year’s Gulf Guardian Award recipients are to be commended for providing environmental leadership to protect and restore one of our nation’s most treasured natural resources, the Gulf of Mexico. These Award recipients are true environmental stewards and protectors of this vital ecosystem,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator A. Stanley Meiburg.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. 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 and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development

Ben Scaggs, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “Given all the incredible challenges that the Gulf has faced over the last several years and the work that has continued with strength and vigor despite what sometime seem like overwhelming obstacles, it is difficult to adequately and succinctly express the community value of the awards and the role they play in reminding us of what yet needs to be done while giving us all the energy and optimism to stay the course.”

For more information please contact, Thao Vu, Phone: (337) 344-1926; or Email: ThaoVu337@gmail.com

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo.

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