New Orleans Aquarium denied funding for restocking

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The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, in New Orleans, has been denied the funding needed to re-stock following damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had initially pledged the aquarium $616,000 after it suffered four days of power outages in August 2005, resulting in the loss of the majority of its stock.

The aquarium team decided to save time and money by going to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys and Bahamas to capture the fish themselves. It is claimed that the team worked 12 hours days while claiming for just eight hours, and saved four fifths on the commercial price of the fish.

This came to total costs of just $99,766, a saving of over half a million dollars on that which was pledged.

However, in doing so, the FEMA has deemed the aquarium to have broken the rules, resulting in the funding being refused.

According to the report, FEMA rules state that the specimens should have been obtained from reputable commercial sources. Furthermore, according to the Stafford Act, the aquarium could only be returned to its pre-disaster condition " therefore the replacement fish should have been of approximately the same age and size as those that were lost.

It is argued that finding such duplicates of the fish lost on the market would be near impossible, and a waste of money. The aquarium has gained support in its decision, with Steve Feldman of the Association of Aquariums and Zoos suggesting that it was exactly the most prudent way to do it.

Rick Patterson of James Lee Witt Associates, who mediate disputes with the FEMA, told AP that you can go out in the commercial market and buy a clownfish. You can also go out and capture it. And if you're capturing fish to fill an aquarium, it is much more cost-effective.

There is a chance that the decision could be re-evaluated.

There are approximately 35,000 projects in the system and although we work very hard to ensure we get them right the first time around, undoubtedly, some will be misjudged, said Bob Josephson, the FEMA's director of external affairs in Louisiana.