At the time, the scientific records of monitoring efforts in the Gulf of Mexico was dispersed across many entities from universities, natural resource management agencies, private industries to non-governmental organizations. In most cases monitoring systems were developed independently, often narrowed to specific questions, such as how many oysters should be harvested and how many should be left in the water?
Today the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved their updated comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf after the BP DeepwaterHorizon oil disaster. The updated plan includes small yet very important changes that echo the comments from tens of thousands of people like you from across the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll recall back in October we asked you to let the Council know that stronger language was needed within the comprehensive plan to ensure restoration is coordinated, comprehensive and based in science. Specifically, we want the Council to improve its project submission process and look for more ways to incorporate the best available science into their plan. These updates would ensure the best possible outcome for the $1.6 billion in fines available to the Council to restore the Gulf.
Last week, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation approved nearly $370 million in new projects to help the Gulf of Mexico recover from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Among these new projects is Mississippi’s Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Recovery and Monitoring Program, a nearly $10 million, five-year project. This is the largest sea turtle or dolphin recovery project funded by any one state in the six years since the BP oil disaster began, and Ocean Conservancy is thrilled to see Mississippi investing in the health of the Gulf’s marine life.
Mississippi has a small coast, but it has felt the effects of the BP oil disaster on its shores. From 2010-2014, a record number of more than 1,100 marine mammals were stranded on beaches all across the Gulf Coast. The bottlenose dolphin population in Mississippi Sound is expected to take 40-50 years to recover. And an estimated 61,000 to 173,000 sea turtles were killed during the BP oil disaster. These long-lived species will need the help of projects like Mississippi’s to fully recover.
Like many Gulf Coast people, I too had a loved one working on an oil rig the day the Deepwater Horizon exploded. In his first job with the oil industry, my stepdad was working IT on a rig. My mom and I had been glad he got the job as he had been laid off during the recession, but that day I was frantic. Stuck on an airplane when I heard the news, I wracked my brain: What rig was he on? Was he okay? It was two, painful hours before we landed, and I could finally call my mom.
Luckily, my stepdad was safe. I breathed a sigh of relief.
But that day in 2010, I’m sure tens of thousands of families went through the same worry, wondering if their loved ones were safe.
For many people, buying a house or a car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. Which is why you hire an appraiser or mechanic to inspect that house or car before you sign the contract—you want peace of mind that it’s a good investment.
The report walks through how to build a monitoring program that will ensure we are getting what we pay for when we invest in Gulf restoration projects, such as rebuilding important marsh and dune habitats that were devastated by the oil. Or, restoration projects that provide first responder services for bottlenose dolphins that are still exhibiting health problems from the oil. Or, projects that protect Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which were oiled in the disaster.
The future of the Gulf is being shaped everyday. Six years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which took the lives of 11 workers, the grand experiment in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold in a unique crucible of complex science and complicated politics.
Over $25 billion in settlements finalized from BP and other parties is earmarked for environmental and economic recovery in the Gulf . While it not nearly enough to fully restore the Gulf, if invested wisely, it is enough to catalyze a transformation in working with nature to enable coastal communities to thrive.
In the new documentary “Dispatches from the Gulf,” the scientists are the heroes. The film airs for the general public for the first time via livestream on April 20 at 2pm and 7pm eastern. I got a sneak peek of the film, and trust me—you won’t want to miss it.
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in 2010, hundreds of scientists around the country have been documenting the impacts of the tragedy on the wildlife and habitats of the Gulf of Mexico. This documentary tells the stories of these scientists, from the University of Miami team that built the equivalent of a treadmill for mahi mahi to test their endurance and see how oil has affected their hearts, to Christopher Reddy, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist who scours the beach for tar balls with a simple tote bag and pair of purple gloves.