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February 2011 cover image A Wish for a Fish

America’s Sea

New TPWD water documentary examines the state of the Gulf.

By Cameron Dodd

Production on the last of five Texas Parks and Wildlife Department documentaries in a series on the state’s water resources has wrapped up. The State of the Gulf: America’s Sea will be broadcast in partnership with PBS stations across the state — once in its entirety and then in segments throughout the year. America’s Sea concludes a decade of work on informative water documentaries for the public.

TPWD producer Lee Smith and his crew soared above the coastline in a new Eurocopter Astar 350 B3, using the latest technology in aerial filming, to capture the Gulf’s sublime magnitude.

“This is declassified Department of Defense technology that is now used in the industry,” Smith says. “It basically keeps the horizon rock-steady, even as the chopper pitches and rolls at speeds up to 100 knots.”

America’s Sea has been two years in the making and is the final installment in this series of acclaimed films. All four previous documentaries have been nominated for regional Emmy awards, and two, including 2009’s Texas: The State of Flowing Water, have won. Smith was awarded the Sierra Club’s Evelyn R. Edens Award for River Protection for this work.

The latest film provides a deep background on the Gulf, including the ecosystem and the economic system that revolve around it. It focuses on the effects that hurricanes, fishing, climate change and other issues have had on these systems, including dead zones and other water-quality issues. Finally, the documentary examines different conservation efforts and looks at what the future holds for the Gulf.

Unfortunately, most of the underwater shoots that the crew had scheduled were canceled because of the BP oil spill — which unexpectedly became a minor topic in the film.

“I’m not going to try to retell the BP disaster story,” Smith says, “but it will be referenced as an example of how various ecosystem services can be at odds, like tourism and fisheries versus oil and gas production. The spill is also an example of the resiliency of the Gulf.”

America’s Sea will be previewed during the State of Water Symposium on Jan. 26 at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The documentary will air Feb. 24 on most PBS stations (check local listings). A free screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin will also be offered on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. Smith will post additional footage at TPWD’s YouTube channel and at www.texasthestateofwater.org.

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