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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Gulf Restoration Plan Is Step Forward for Recovery, but More Work Remains

Posted On August 30, 2013 by

Oil washes ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana

Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy

The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views:

If we hope to meet the future resource demands of a growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us, we must put the ocean at the center of what we do. The ocean provides us with food, energy, transportation, carbon storage and more—it is truly our greatest natural resource.

Nowhere is this more true than in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is a national treasure and a significant driver of the U.S. economy, providing resources for food, recreation and livelihoods.

But the Gulf is still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as well as decades of ecosystem decline. Restoring this region to health is the only way to ensure that we can enjoy its many benefits for generations to come.

That task lies in the hands of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which just released its “Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy.” This plan is intended to serve as a framework to implement a coordinated, Gulf-wide restoration effort using RESTORE Act funding. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something great for the Gulf.

The Gulf Council’s plan is another small but important step forward in Gulf recovery, but we aren’t there yet.

Click here to read the full post, including Ocean Conservancy’s recommendations for next steps.

 

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No Truth in Advertising: BP Avoiding Gulf Restoration

Posted On August 22, 2013 by

Boom and pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy

Have you seen the BP commercials about the company taking responsibility for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history? I for one usually see at least one every week. That’s because for the past three years, the company has spent hundreds of millions on advertising trying to clean up their image. But unfortunately, BP hasn’t been as diligent about spending money to actually clean up the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster they claim to be taking responsibility for.

Even as their advertisements continue to run on air, BP is now fighting its own settlement and refusing to provide much-needed funding to the people impacted by the disaster and to restoration efforts critical to bring back the health of Gulf ecosystems and marine life.

Why? Because BP claims that the people who lost their jobs and their way of life are trying to scam the company. This despite the fact that while BP makes about $4 billion in profit every three months, many people who lost their livelihoods have waited more than three years to receive compensation for their losses.

Instead of taking responsibility for the oil disaster in the Gulf and all of the repercussions to the people and wildlife who call the Gulf region home, BP is going out of its way to shirk responsibility for paying economic claims they already agreed to in court.

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Next Steps in Gulf Recovery: Restoring Region’s Health and Livelihoods

Posted On July 26, 2013 by

shrimp boat

Credit: Bethany Kraft / Ocean Conservancy

With yesterday’s news that Halliburton intentionally destroyed evidence related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we are seeing that the truth about that disaster is still coming out. The company’s callousness at least has one bright side—it will provide more resources to an important restoration organization. But this isn’t enough.

The people of the Gulf are still suffering from this tragedy.

Three years ago, I found myself at a late-night community meeting on the coast in Alabama to discuss the oil disaster. At that point, oil was still spewing uncontrolled from the wellhead and huge portions of the Gulf were closed to fishing—meaning that thousands of people were out of a job and countless more were unable to enjoy doing the things they’d always taken for granted, like fishing, boating and swimming in the Gulf.

About an hour in, a broad-shouldered, weathered man stood up to discuss what this disaster meant for him. He explained that he made his living as a fisherman and now couldn’t afford to feed his family. As he talked, his voice began to break, and he struggled to keep talking through the tears. It was then that I knew this disaster was deeper than the sheen on the water; it was in the hearts of each Gulf resident.

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Red Snapper Numbers Go Up In More Ways Than One

Posted On July 15, 2013 by

Fisherman loads red snapper into buckets

Credit: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

UPDATE (July 17, 2013): Success! The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has voted to raise this year’s catch limit for red snapper from 8.46 to 11 million pounds due to the successful rebuilding of this iconic species. This action marks a historic moment in the management of the red snapper fishery, as catch levels are the highest they’ve been in 25 years.

Read more about this decision here.

Original post (July 15, 2013):

It’s summer in the Gulf of Mexico, and another recreational red snapper fishing season has come and gone too quickly. Usually at this time of year, anglers and fishery managers are taking stock of what was caught in the short snapper opening and wondering what the limit will be next year. The answer will come sooner than usual.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is holding an emergency meeting this week to decide how many more red snapper can be caught this year. A science panel recently announced that an increase is possible, and now managers need to settle the questions of how much and by when?

The good news is that the red snapper population is on the rise and soon the catch limit will be too. The law governing our nation’s fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, has rebuilt a record number of fish populations around the country, and red snapper is one of the most visible success stories.

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Gulf Killifish: Late to Hatch and Slow to Grow

Posted On May 7, 2013 by

Important questions about the impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster still linger. Some effects could go undetected for years. To fully restore the Gulf, and to make sure the Gulf and its people are recovering, we need to establish a long-term monitoring and research program. While we wait for confidential government studies to become public, little clues are emerging that give us insight into which species were injured and what this might mean for the Gulf ecosystem.

A study reported in Environmental Science and Technology tells us that one species to keep an eye on is the Gulf killifish. Through their ongoing research, the authors (Dubansky et al., 2013) determined that killifish from oil-contaminated marshes in Louisiana were impacted by the disaster. Specifically, they collected eggs from oiled and non-oiled sites before and after the disaster and raised them in a lab. The eggs from oiled sites took longer to hatch than eggs from non-oiled sites. When the late eggs did hatch, the larval fish were smaller and more likely to have heart defects than those from non-oiled sites. This indicates that the developing fish will not be able to survive and reproduce as well as eggs from non-oiled sites.
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Update: Three Years After BP–Charting the Course to Recovery

Posted On April 20, 2013 by

Three years ago, on April 20, the lives of 11 men were cut short as a rig most of us had never heard of exploded, creating a fiery hell on the surface of the ocean and wreaking 87 days of havoc beneath the surface as oil spewed uncontrolled  into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

That spring and summer, as families of the 11 men mourned and the world watched live feeds of the wellhead blowing millions of barrels of oil into the waters we rely on for our food and our livelihoods.  We saw images of oiled pelicans and birds washed up on shore. We saw vast amounts of a dispersant known as Corexit sprayed on the surface and at depth to make the oil “disappear” and, ostensibly, prevent a greater disaster on shore. We flew over blue-green water marked with long streaks of orange-colored dispersed oil and watched dolphins weave in an out of those toxic ribbons.

As we look forward to opportunities that arise for restoration and recovery from this tragedy, we must not forget the size of this disaster. We have one Gulf and one chance to do this right.  This opportunity for restoration comes at a dear price and it is up to all of us to honor the lives lost by restoring the resources that make life on the Gulf possible.
So where are we three years on? There has been some progress in the last three years that we should recognize and celebrate, but there is still a lot of work to do.

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Why the National Ocean Policy Matters

Posted On April 17, 2013 by

Credit: DigitalVision

Superstorm Sandy’s coastal destruction, the Japan Tsunami’s drifting debris, BP Deepwater Horizon’s gusher of oil in the Gulf and the declaration of fisheries disasters in New England, Mississippi and Alaska have taught us that these calamities affect not only the health of our ocean and coasts, but also the well-being of our communities and our economy.  We also know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again.

Investing in our ocean’s health will help not only respond to future disasters, but also better withstand their impacts. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the U.S. are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.  The levels the president put forward in his budget, including an increase to NOAA’s funding, are a step in the right direction

With the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan just this week, all levels of government, tribes and ocean-users can benefit from the increased guidance and coordination.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Regions can decide what they want – or don’t want – and what works best for them. Ultimately, a healthy and well-managed ocean and coast benefits everyone – industry, beachgoers, fishermen, divers and whale watchers alike.

Here’s why others say the National Ocean Policy matters to them:

Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, LLC:

“Our business requires coordination on the local, state and federal level and listening to the views of affected ocean users. By engaging ocean users, and by providing data and information, the smart ocean planning described in the National Ocean Policy provides greater predictability, consistency and efficiency – in short, less time, lower risk and lower costs. For emerging industries like offshore renewable energy, it’s vital to know where things like critical fish habitat, shipping lanes and recreation hot spots are in order to avoid them.”

Edward Anthes-Washburn, Deputy Port Director, Port of New Bedford:

“Ocean planning is critical to the Port of New Bedford’s past, present and future.  The Port of New Bedford is the #1 valued fishing port in the United States, the premier staging site for offshore wind deployments on the East Coast, and a bustling commercial and recreational port.  We rely on strong and thoughtful strategic planning to balance those uses here in the port.  By the same token, comprehensive regional ocean planning is vital for all of our industries to thrive – without it, we risk conflict and chaos between uses.  More than providing a clearinghouse for information needed and collected by ocean users, ocean planning provides a forum and produces development options that make sense for all stakeholders.”

Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA:

“The more we know about the ocean, the better we’ll be able to protect and utilize its resources sustainably and reliably.  The National Ocean Policy helps ensure this happens.  The continued development and application of crowdsourcing ocean data and other ‘citizen science’ initiatives promotes efficiency and collaboration while strengthening our nation’s marine spatial planning infrastructure.  The engagement of the public accomplishes collection of data and outreach to users and contributors outside of the professions normally involved in sea surveying.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind:

“For those of us with businesses and livelihoods that rely on the ocean, the benefits of the National Ocean Policy are clear. The demand for ocean resources is growing by the day. Renewable energy, commercial and recreational fisheries and maritime industries, among others, are all interested in the same waters. Many times these areas intersect, and conflict between uses could result without sensible planning.  The release of the Implementation Plan moves us one step closer to creating smart plans to guide us toward sustainable ocean development.”

Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs for the Ocean Renewable Power Company:

“As New England regional planning begins and methods to involve stakeholders are investigated, our project serves as a positive example of collaboration between existing marine users and new industry. In essence, we have implemented many of the principles of smart ocean planning and have shown its success. By forging an early path of engagement and through continued diligence, new ocean users can contribute to increased sustainability and vitality of coastal communities.”

John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

“As part of the community’s efforts to develop and apply innovative technologies to the understanding of the world’s oceans, we are very encouraged by the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan’s goal of efficiently targeting Federal resources and delivering demonstrable results.  Crowdsourced bathymetry –  or water depth and the sea floor information – is one such technology that can contribute to this goal and further serve all of the Plan’s guiding themes.  As our company continues to develop this crowdsourcing technology, we will rely on the National Ocean Policy to help further our goals by sharing and coordinating with fellow ocean users.”

Captain John McMurray, president, One More Cast Charters, writing in The Hill:

“Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist.”