Ocean Currents » bp oil spill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:58:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 My Vision for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/20/my-vision-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/20/my-vision-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 12:55:27 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14191

Together we can get to a Gulf that is restored, healthy and thriving once more.

April 20, 2017, marks seven years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, taking the lives of 11 people and severely impacting the Gulf of Mexico.

As someone who grew up and works in the Gulf, I deeply appreciate all that we have accomplished over the last seven years.
Together, we saw the RESTORE Act bring much needed Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf states, and a global settlement was reached where BP will pay $20.8 billion dollars over 15 years. We now have the opportunity to fix not only the damage from the oil disaster, but also undo decades of environmental problems like water quality impairments. In the past seven years, we invested in scientific research and solutions to restore the Gulf. As a result, we now know more about our wonderful and diverse marine ecosystem with scientists discovering new species in the Gulf.

As a conservationist, I am excited to tackle the challenging work of restoring one of the most important ecosystems in the country.
An effort of this scale—from Texas to Florida, and from upriver to the deep sea—has never before been attempted. We have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the outcome, even in the absence of a guide for decision-makers to follow in order to ensure success. Sure, that’s a little scary, but to me it’s a very exciting challenge!

I am optimistic that our leadership in the Gulf of Mexico can lead the way for large-scale restoration efforts around the world.
Together, we can be an example for how multiple states and federal agencies can cooperate and build on shared strengths to restore an ecosystem that the nation relies upon for food, recreation and thriving coastal economies.

The way forward must be built on:

  1. Coordination and transparency: Wildlife, fisheries and habitats, rivers and estuaries don’t recognize state boundaries. If our restoration and management efforts are to be truly effective, we must commit to regional cooperation and integrated, cross-jurisdictional approaches. There are three major restoration programs in the Gulf recovery process with five states and seven federal agencies in the mix. This is complex, to say the least, but hiccups can be avoided with a formal mechanism for coordination. It will allow for us all to pool and stretch available resources, find synergies between projects and successfully negotiate conflicts that might arise.
  2. Science-based ecosystem approach: Science is the key to success. Countries like the Netherlands have conducted smaller scale restoration efforts and learned that without a strong foundation in science, we are doomed to fail. We must ensure that restoration replicates natural systems where possible, use modeling and science to guarantee the best possible outcomes and know when to change course if our wildlife are not recovering as expected.
  3. Think big! This is an incredible opportunity for the Gulf region to become a world leader in large-scale marine restoration. We shouldn’t be afraid of innovative projects that step outside of our comfort zone. Restoration at this scale calls for more than the usual restoration options. For example, mapping the habitats and species of deep-water coral communities in and around the DeSoto Canyon.

Yes, it’s been seven years since our Gulf got hit with the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.  We’ll always look back at the time with horror and sadness but now, we can also look forward to a Gulf that is restored, heathy and thriving once more.

Take action now. Tell our Gulf leaders to make smart investments in the Gulf beyond the shore.

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Beyond BP: Restoring Our Gulf of Mexico in the Era of Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 14:27:25 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11951

Photo: NOAA

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.

The Gulf of Mexico became an immense emergency room during the hours, days and weeks following the explosion on April 20, 2010. Unprepared for the previously unthinkable worst case, first responders triaged the situation with the controversial use of dispersants applied a mile below the sea’s surface. Scientists grappled with the appallingly large knowledge gaps about the Gulf environment and how it would respond to a huge volume of oil. Across the coast, we rallied with coastal communities to respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, straining the capacity of our nation’s disaster response system.

Six years on, we recognize a unique opportunity born from tragedy that is much bigger than the Gulf itself. It is the nation’s first real test case for whether and how we can best restore natural resources at a scale large enough to slow or even reverse the rate of environmental decline. Many places around the country and the globe struggle with environmental degradation exacerbated by development, loss of ecological connectivity and function, and the expected impacts of sea level rise. These places can benefit from the hard lessons we have learned in the Gulf.

By using the restoration funds as a down payment on the larger goal of ecosystem resilience, the Gulf can serve as an example to others grappling with climate change and restoration. This funding represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ecosystem restoration in a region that has suffered decades of degradation without major federal investments, earning it the name “the national sacrifice zone.” The reality is that 31 states across the U.S. send their pollution downstream into the Gulf, including “dead zone”-causing pollution from farms in the Midwest. Yet the Gulf provides a large part of the seafood we eat, as well as the oil and gas we use. For all that we as a nation rely on the Gulf, we fail to invest the resources to fix it.

The Gulf of Mexico is now on course, for better or worse, to be the leading example of restoring a large ecosystem and the resulting economies that are based on often conflicting uses. However, our needs in the Gulf of Mexico, like many other regions of the world, far outstrip the available resources. We will have to work smarter rather than harder, and adopt a creative and innovative approach to defining the problem and implementing the solution. For ecosystem restoration to fulfill its promise as a key component of responding to climate change, we need a far more comprehensive approach to designing, funding and implementing restoration.

As restoration work gets underway in the Gulf, a number of guiding principles are critically important in driving the successful investment of billions of dollars. Some of these lessons are being learned the hard way, as state and federal officials grapple with requirements to think comprehensively while being responsive to both local needs and political pressures.

These principles include: transparency and public engagement, the consolidation of multiple restoration activities under one governing body, restoration objectives that take into account the anticipated impacts of climate change, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptation, and recognizing that restoration must be coupled with better policy decisions around development and extractive activities. Collectively, these efforts represent a replicable, scalable structure that can be adapted to restoration efforts in different ecosystems and management frameworks.

If the previous century was characterized by the loss of habitat and ecosystem services that communities rely on to thrive, then the next must be defined by a commitment to working with nature. This partnership will restore ecological functions, stabilize our fisheries and our shorelines and help us adapt to a changing climate.

This journey can and should start in the Gulf of Mexico.

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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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