Yesterday I wrote about Hurricane Isaac’s impacts to our coastal environment as well as the unfortunate reminder that an unknown quantity of BP oil still lingers in the Gulf, needing only time and the right conditions to once again wreak havoc on our beaches, marshes and coastal communities.
Events like hurricanes serve as sobering reminders of how critical coastal restoration initiatives are to the long-term sustainability of our Gulf communities, our economies and, of course, our natural resources. But as critical as restoration of our coastal resources are, they are only part of a larger picture of ecosystem restoration in the region. Restoration of our marine resources are equally important to preserving our coastal way of life.
Ocean Conservancy views restoration of the Gulf ecosystem as a three-legged stool. Each leg depends on the other for balance and function. If you lose one leg, you no longer have a strong base, and you will almost certainly topple. The three legs of restoration in the Gulf are: restoration of the coastal environment, the marine environment and coastal communities.
We must focus our effort, energy and funding resources to all three of these vital areas if we are going to realize our vision of a vibrant and healthy Gulf region. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are there competing needs for limited funds? Yes? Do we have to find a way to do all three? Absolutely.
When I talk to people about the importance of marine restoration in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (after all, the explosion happened offshore, and the vast majority of oil is still lurking beneath the surface of the Gulf), the first question I am asked is how one would actually go about restoring marine resources.
To answer that question, Ocean Conservancy, along with the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative (GOMURC) convened experts from academic, governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as fishing groups to serve as panelists in a workshop to identify and rank marine restoration priorities.
In a spirit of cooperation and creativity and with a clear recognition that our Gulf citizens and economies cannot thrive without a healthy marine environment, these experts spent two very long days discussing and vetting marine restoration concepts that, while not exhaustive, provide an important resource for talking about restoration of our blue water resources.
The outcome of those discussions, the Marine Restoration Workshop Report, is a clarion call to consider our blue water any time we think about restoration in the Gulf region from ocean habitats to fishery resources to marine wildlife and human uses of marine resources.
You can read the report in its entirety here.
Because the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unprecedented in size, depth, duration and distance from shore, there is relatively little experience to guide the planning and implementation of restoration measures specifically for the marine environment, with emphasis on offshore habitats, species and human uses.
This report focuses on marine ecosystem priorities in order to supplement and complement the assessments and resources that are devoted, appropriately, to the restoration of coastal environments.