Ocean Currents » bp oil spill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 An Ocean of Thanks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:00:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11105

This has been a good year for the ocean. The hard work of ocean advocates — like you —has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it.

Join me in celebrating a few of the ocean successes we’ve seen over the past year:

  • Ocean plastic is now on the top of the international agenda, and we’re on the way towards an action plan to reduce ocean plastic by half.
  • The $20.8 billion BP settlement for their Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 is based on real science, on transparent governance and contains essential provisions for ocean health and science.  Things are looking good for the Gulf.
  • The Arctic regulatory environment is now configured in a way that post-Shell, new exploration in U.S. waters in the next decade is almost impossible. Things are looking better for the Arctic.
  • The International Coastal Cleanup celebrated 30 years. For three decades, Ocean Conservancy has inspired millions of volunteers around the world to clean up their coastlines. Last year, an astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash — equivalent to weight of 38 blue whales. Things are looking better for our beaches.
  • We have pioneered a far better way to make ocean planning decisions in New England and the mid-Atlantic, and the first wind farm is a direct beneficiary of that.
  • We’re blazing new trails in figuring out entirely new approaches on how to think about commercial fishing.

None of these remarkable victories could have happened without you. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean.

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Take Action to Restore the Gulf Beyond the Shore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/20/take-action-to-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/20/take-action-to-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 20:00:58 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11092  

We did it! You asked our Gulf leaders to restore the Gulf beyond the shore, and they heard you! When the details of the $20.8 billion settlement were released last month, more than $1 billion was set aside to restore the open ocean.

But there’s a catch…the Trustees charged with restoring the Gulf have proposed to take ALL of their federal overhead expenses for the next 15 years out of the open ocean fund. That funding is critical for restoring Gulf wildlife in the deep sea, where an area 20 times the size of Manhattan remains polluted with BP oil!

Please join me in taking action to protect the Gulf. Let’s send the Trustees a message: Don’t raid the Gulf’s open ocean fund!

Administrative costs are important to getting the job done right, but paying for federal administrative costs from the money set aside to address all of the impacts to ocean habitats and wildlife will deprive marine life like corals and sea turtles the funding they need to recover from the BP oil disaster.

Tell the Trustees to only use open ocean funds to restore the Gulf beyond the shore.

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Where Did the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Go? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/31/where-did-the-bp-deepwater-horizon-oil-go/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/31/where-did-the-bp-deepwater-horizon-oil-go/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:47:22 +0000 Alexis Baldera http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9460

You may remember images like this one following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster—oil smeared across Gulf Coast beaches like a dirty bathtub ring. New research released this week suggests that a similar oily bathtub ring is lying on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists determined that an oily patch created by the BP oil disaster remains on the Gulf seafloor, stretching across roughly 1,250 square miles. They came to these conclusions using data collected as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment at over 500 sampling locations in the Gulf. The source of the oil is most likely the subsea oil plumes that moved underwater—oil that spewed from the Macondo wellhead but never made it to the surface. As oiled particles fell out of the plume and settled on the Gulf seafloor, they created what the researchers are calling a “patchwork mosaic” of contaminated sites. The patches get more spread out the further they are from the wellhead, leading the scientists to conclude that there is still more oil lying beyond the edge of the bathtub ring, but it probably just hasn’t been detected yet.

The U.S. government estimates the Macondo well’s total discharge was 210 million gallons. The lead researchers of this study, Christopher Reddy and David Valentine, recognize the challenge of tracking millions of gallons of oil in the deep ocean. “Keep in mind that we’re trying to track 30,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 carbon atoms (and twice that number of hydrogen atoms) in a hostile, ever-moving environment,” the authors said in a recent blog. Their research sheds light on the mystery of the submerged oil that never came ashore or reached the Gulf surface.

You might remember earlier studies that supported the hypothesis that microbes in the water column and deep sea consumed large amounts of the BP oil and gas. At first glance, this new study seemed to contradict those findings, but in reality they are complimentary. To understand how all of these pieces fit together, we need to be thinking about two types of hydrocarbons, or the chemical structures of oil and gas particles. First, there are the water-soluble hydrocarbons, which are what the oil-consuming microbes eat. Second, there are the water-insoluble, non-digestible hydrocarbons, which are the types of oil products reported on for this new study. Both studies are helping us understand the fate and distribution of the oil and gas released during the BP oil disaster.

“The evidence is becoming clear that oily particles were raining down around these deep-sea corals, which provides a compelling explanation for the injury they suffered,” said Valentine. “The pattern of contamination we observe is fully consistent with the Deepwater Horizon event but not with natural seeps–the suggested alternative.”

In light of recent attempts by BP to minimize the oil disaster, this study is another link that ties BP to the impacts in the deep waters of the Gulf. As science progresses and new findings emerge, more and more studies are reminding us that this was an offshore disaster, and projects to restore the Gulf are needed offshore, as well as on the coast. So far the vast majority of restoration projects have targeted damaged coastal habitats or lost recreation days due to closed fisheries and beaches. These projects are no doubt important, but in order to achieve full restoration to the Gulf ecosystem there needs to be a shift to a more balanced portfolio that addresses the marine resources, such as fish, sea turtles, dolphins and deep-sea corals, in addition to our beaches, marshes and fishing piers.

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Scientists Discover How BP Oil Affects Tuna Hearts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/24/new-study-bp-oil-is-damaging-tuna-hearts/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/24/new-study-bp-oil-is-damaging-tuna-hearts/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:25:07 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7544

Photo: NOAA

During the spring and summer of 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster released over 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This was an unprecedented amount of toxic material discharged into the Gulf, and scientists have been researching its impacts on marine and coastal wildlife ever since. One of the species of concern is the imperiled Atlantic bluefin tuna, which was spawning at the time and location of the BP disaster.

In a new study, scientists from Stanford University and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered that crude oil, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), disrupts the cellular pathway that allows juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tuna heart cells to beat effectively. This causes a slowed heart rate, reduced ability of muscular heart tissue to contract, and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Crude oil is known to be toxic to the developing hearts of fish embryos and larvae, reducing the likelihood that those fish will survive. But until now, the details of how crude oil harmed fish hearts were unclear.

How Crude Oil Slows the Heartbeat

The heart in vertebrates is made up of a collection of individual cells that interact to give the heart its ability to beat and pump blood. To beat effectively, the heart cell must move essential ions like potassium and calcium through channels into and out of the cell quickly. Very low concentrations of crude oil block these channels in heart cell membranes, which ultimately slow the fish’s heartbeat.

The ion channels observed in tuna heart cells are similar to the ion channels found in heart cells of many animals, including humans. This study provides evidence as to how petroleum products may be negatively affecting cardiac function in a wide variety of animals.

Implications for Other Species

After the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, other fish, such as red snapper, spawned in offshore waters, these spawning habitats were potentially oiled as a result of the disaster. This raises the possibility that eggs and larvae of many species, which float near surface waters, were exposed to oil. The potential harmful impacts of the BP disaster on young fish are still being investigated.

Looking at the big picture, these new findings demonstrate how petroleum-derived chemical pollution from the BP oil disaster and other sources — such as urban stormwater runoff — could affect coastal and marine species in the Gulf or elsewhere. This study raises the concern that exposure to PAHs in many animals – including humans – could lead to cardiac arrhythmias and bradycardia, or slowing of the heart.

Restoring the Gulf of Mexico

This study is groundbreaking for many reasons. For one, it offers insight into how crude oil from the BP disaster could impact wildlife in offshore waters. Second, the study points to the types of data that scientists need to collect in order to monitor the environment’s health and recovery before and after an oil spill – like a doctor taking vital signs to monitor a patient’s health prior to and after a heart attack.

And lastly, it underscores the importance of funding long-term ecosystem monitoring to understand how daily pollution such as stormwater runoff and air pollution as well as large scale human-caused disasters affect the health of wildlife, habitats and humans.

In light of this significant discovery, it is essential that we continue to research and monitor the impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster so that we may understand the full scope of injury and implement strategies to restore the Gulf of Mexico to its former resilience and beauty.

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Oil Disaster Trial Phase 2: BP vs. Reality http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/23/oil-disaster-trial-phase-2-bp-vs-reality/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/23/oil-disaster-trial-phase-2-bp-vs-reality/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 12:00:17 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6856 Seabirds in the Gulf are threatened by oil from the BP spill.

Photo: Kris Krug via Flickr

The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on Huffington Post:

It’s been more than three years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster grabbed worldwide attention. The explosive blowout that tragically claimed the lives of 11 workers on board the rig in April 2010 also unleashed an unprecedented amount of oil that flowed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The impacts have been staggering and ongoing.

BP’s actions to stop the oil, as well as how much actually spewed into the Gulf, were the subject of the second phase of BP’s trial in New Orleans, which concluded last week. The final phase of the trial will take place next year, after which the judge will determine the penalties. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know.

BP’s public messaging around the trial has usually fallen into one of three categories:

  1. We’ve done a lot already.
  2. We intend to pay for the damages.
  3. We’re being ripped off.

But here’s the truth:

  1. What they’ve done is far below what is needed to fully restore the Gulf economy and ecosystem.
  2. Their actions contradict their claim that they intend to pay for full restoration.
  3. The people of the Gulf are the ones who stand to be ripped off.

Read more at Huffington Post.

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No Truth in Advertising: BP Avoiding Gulf Restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/22/no-truth-in-advertising-bp-avoiding-gulf-restoration/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/22/no-truth-in-advertising-bp-avoiding-gulf-restoration/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 18:47:24 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6554 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.

Now BP is taking a step even further by suing the U.S. government, claiming that being barred from pursuing new federal contracts (keep in mind that this was part of the punishment the company received for the oil disaster in the first place) is potentially costing them billions of dollars.

Despite BP’s completely astonishing legal maneuvers recently, there is progress being made. This week the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its Comprehensive Restoration Plan. Ocean Conservancy (and about a thousand of our supporters—thank you!) provided comments on what the plan should include to ensure that restoration is truly comprehensive. Read more about our recommendations here.

RESTORE Act funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something great for the Gulf. The task before the council is to use the plan as a blueprint to guide the development of a science-based process to ensure that projects ultimately selected for funding will contribute to a vision for comprehensive restoration of the Gulf ecosystem from coastal areas to the marine environment.

But a plan is only as good as the funds to implement it. As the news reports regarding BP continue to come out—detailing their court battles over settlement payments to oil spill estimate—one thing is for sure: We need to ensure the communities and livelihoods that were damaged by this disaster get the resources they need to recover. Restoring the Gulf to health after decades of degradation, including, most recently, the BP oil disaster, will ensure that we enjoy these benefits for many years to come.

We look forward to the council meeting next week and sharing our insight with members regarding what is now needed to get the plan to a place where it can be funded and implemented.

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Update: Three Years After BP–Charting the Course to Recovery http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/20/update-three-years-after-bp-charting-the-course-to-recovery/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/20/update-three-years-after-bp-charting-the-course-to-recovery/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 11:00:38 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5467

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.

Since the onset of the spill, Ocean Conservancy has led the charge for a comprehensive approach to restoration. For us, that means restoration of our coastal communities as well as coastal and marine environments. Three years on, the discussion about coastal restoration and economic recovery has grown more robust, with excellent project ideas (and some not so great ideas) being discussed. And organizations like Oxfam America are doing incredible work to ensure that those most affected by the oil disaster have a place in a new restoration economy.

What is  troubling is that marine restoration is still not on the radar for many people. Given the location of the blowout (in the deep water) and the unknown long-term impacts on deepwater corals, marine mammals, sea turtles and fish, not to mention the fact that there is still an unknown quantity of oil lurking beneath the surface, it makes sense for marine restoration to be at the center of conversations about recovery.

There are myriad options for marine restoration out there, and in the coming months we will be sharing specific projects that Ocean Conservancy believes will have a positive impact on the Gulf of Mexico and the people and wildlife that rely on it. Without a healthy Gulf, we won’t have a healthy coast or healthy communities.

An unprecedented bipartisan effort on the part of the Gulf delegation, and two years of coordination and hard work on the part of a diverse coalition of non-profits, local governments and businesses, led the charge to get the RESTORE Act passed in July of 2012. The Act created a trust fund that will send 80% of any civil and administrative Clean Water Act penalties related to the oil disaster to the Gulf Coast for restoration.  The money is allocated to various “pots” of money, some of which can be used for both economic and environmental recovery, and some of which is dedicated solely to ecosystem recovery, guided by a comprehensive restoration plan.

The RESTORE Act will potentially send billions of dollars to the Gulf for restoration, but, unfortunately, even before the money has arrived, we are seeing bills proposed  to divert the money to state general funds, and plans to widen roads or other projects that are not in keeping with the spirit of the Act, and that won’t do much, if anything, to create a lasting legacy for the Gulf’s citizens.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment
BP committed a billion dollars to early restoration as part of their legal obligation to mitigate the impacts of the oil spill on the region’s natural resources. This early restoration framework was created to expedite the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a legal process that can take years or even decades to resolve, but thus far we’ve only seen ten projects approved for funding. More importantly, there is no indication that the restoration plans that should guide this process and provide the public a way to participate in recovery are going to be ready anytime soon. We have to insist that restoration is approached comprehensively, and we need a plan to make that happen.

Studies continue to point to trouble for the people, wildlife and the places they live.  We must insist that BP be held accountable for fully compensating the public for the damages to our impacted resources.

Miles of Restoration
Even as the BP trial drags on, and restoration plans remain in the earliest stages, some groups are taking restoration in their own hands and doing incredible work across the Gulf.
Led by the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation, a large partnership continues to move closer to its goal of building 100 miles of oyster reef and living shoreline as part of the 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama Partnership. Funded by various grants, this group isn’t waiting for BP to get its act together. They are working together to protect and improve habitats in Alabama.

Regardless of whether you’ve been following the events of the last three years faithfully, we all must remember what is at stake. And whether you live in Coden, Alabama or Kenosha, Wisconsin, the choices we make in the wake of April 20, 2010 affect you. As we mark the third memorial of the BP oil disaster, what are your thoughts on how we move forward with recovery?

For more information about our work in the Gulf and to learn how you can get involved, click here.

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