Ocean Currents » BP 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 An Ocean of Thanks to YOU http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks-to-you/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks-to-you/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:10:35 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13363

The following message is from Janis Searles Jones, President, and Andreas Merkl, CEO.

This has been such a great year for the ocean, and I have you to thank for it. Protecting the ocean is a BIG job, and we can’t do it without people like you.

You’ve put in so much effort all year, that I want to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished together, celebrate our victories and look forward to the work still to be done.

Thanks to your hard work and support, here’s a taste of the incredible victories we’ve accomplished in 2016:

Hundreds of thousands of volunteers like you, all around the world, took part in our 31st annual International Coastal Cleanup. From the coastlines of the Philippines to the rivers of Pennsylvania, ocean lovers walked tens of thousands of miles and collected millions of pounds of trash, making our coastlines cleaner and healthier. And we have a plan to help cut the amount of plastic entering our ocean in half over the coming decade, so I hope I can continue to count on your support to help make that vision a reality.

Thanks to the support of ocean advocates (like you!), President Obama established two marine monuments: Papahānaumokuākea Monument—the world’s largest marine sanctuary—in Hawaii, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in New England. In just the span of a few weeks, Obama protected more U.S. waters than any other president in history. Together, we can ensure that these areas remain protected from special interests.

In the same year that Shell announced its withdrawal from oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea, the Obama administration just announced it will remove the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas—as well as the Atlantic Ocean—from risky offshore drilling until 2022. Exclusion of the Arctic in the five-year plan means critical protection for the communities and animals that call the region home. But with oil and gas companies still eyeing the Arctic, we’ll need your continued support to keep this fragile area protected.

After six years of hard work and boots on the ground in the Gulf, BP finally agreed to pay more than $20 billion to the American people to help recover from the impacts caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Now, scientists are working to make sure that money is well spent on restoration and monitoring projects to bring the Gulf back to a healthy state.

Revolutionary new ocean plans in the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions made history by paving the way for smart ocean management. These plans brought together the needs of many, many stakeholders and will help us best manage our ocean resources for humans and the environment alike. With your help, we’ll work toward implementing these plans and expanding them to other regions.

Together, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a fisheries management act that is largely responsible for the strong state of our nation’s fisheries. You’ve helped us keep the Magnuson-Stevens Act strong, and our nation’s fish populations are healthier because of it. I hope I can continue to count on your support to make sure we have healthy fish populations for generations to come.

The United States took critical action to increase protection around the ecologically rich Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. 160,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands have been protected as Areas to Be Avoided. Now, the Aleutian Islands, along with the wildlife and peoples who call them home, are safer from shipping accidents.

Ocean acidification is becoming more and more widely recognized as a problem both locally and internationally. We’re now calling on leaders worldwide to protect coastal communities and businesses at risk from acidification. And more than 18,000 people like you have signed Our Ocean Pledge to add your name to the effort—thank you!

All of these amazing ocean victories have one thing in common: YOU. I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and commitment to a healthy ocean. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and thank you for your commitment to our ocean. While there is a lot of uncertainty in the air, one thing remains true. The ocean is at the heart of all we do, and we need you to be effective ocean advocates. I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean in the coming months and years.

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Remembering the Victims and Survivors of Deepwater Horizon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/01/remembering-the-victims-and-survivors-of-deepwater-horizon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/01/remembering-the-victims-and-survivors-of-deepwater-horizon/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2016 13:20:37 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13040

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 of us, then, the new movie Deepwater Horizon, which chronicles the last few hours aboard the rig, may be hard to watch. The movie creates an overwhelming sense of fear, anger and frustration as cement tests are ignored, pressure tests are misread and concerns over the integrity of the oil well are overlooked for the sake of staying on schedule.

The film points to the oil and gas industry’s overall lack of commitment to safety as the root cause of the disaster, just as the National Oil Spill Commission found in their 2011 report to the President. In the movie, before the first explosion even happens, we see that the phones don’t work, fire alarms need new batteries and even the air conditioning is going out. Mark Wahlberg, portraying chief electronic technician Mike Williams, calls out this climate of risk when he tells BP well site leader Donald Vidrine, played by John Malkovich, that it seems BP is “running out of gas while landing the plane.” The Deepwater Horizon was behind schedule, and BP was intent on finishing the job quickly so the rig could move onto another well site.

Once the blowout occurs, chaos ensues because the rig crew was not properly trained on how to respond to such a disaster. Captain Curt Kuchta screams at dynamic positioning officer Andrea Fleytas for sounding a distress signal. Transocean rig boss Jimmy Harrell is half-blinded in the first explosion by falling insulation and glass and struggles to regain command of his rig. Ultimately, Vidrine, along with his partner Robert Kaluza, were both charged with 22 counts of manslaughter, all of which were eventually dropped. In real life, many feel that Vidrine and Kaluza were simply the fall guys for BP as the key decisions that led to the disaster ultimately came from their bosses in Houston. The movie emphasizes this sentiment by portraying Vidrine as a vulgar character, a symbol of BP’s negligence. But where Vidrine and Kaluza were found at fault, 11 heroic men had worked furiously to try to prevent the disaster.

Movie director Peter Berg said during a National Public Radio interview that one of his motivations for making the movie was to recognize their dedication in the face of danger. It’s no coincidence that most of the 11 men who died were members of the drilling crew. “They stayed at their workstations,” Berg told NPR, “when they could have jumped off the rig onto the lifeboats. They stayed on the rig and attempted very hard and courageously to try and prevent that blowout. And they died trying to prevent it.”

Eleven families lost a loved one that day. But we know it could have been a loved one from any of tens of thousands of families. Six years later, as we work to restore the Gulf from the BP oil disaster, it’s important that we keep this loss as part of our  perspective. Because even though we now have an opportunity to make the Gulf even healthier than it was in 2010, we paid a dear price for this chance. We owe it to the victims and survivors of the disaster to get Gulf restoration right.

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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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Postcards from the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:24:13 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10472

Today marks five years since the oil stopped pouring out of BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began on April 20, 2010, it took 87 days for BP to cap the well and stop the flow of oil. In honor of the occasion, Ocean Conservancy interviewed Gulf residents about the disaster, its impacts, and what the Gulf means to them. We have been sharing their stories on Twitter and Facebook over the past 87 days.

Here is a collection of all 28 postcards. Click on the postcards to enlarge them. Be sure to check our past blogs for an in-depth look at some of their stories.

AlbertNaquin_Postcard AlexisBaldera_Postcard BernieBurkholder BethanyKraft_Postcard BeverlyMBurkholder_Postcard BobbyNguyen BonnySchumaker_Postcard CalvinLove_Postcard ColeKolasa FrankHernandez_Postcard GregSteyer JamesCowan JimFranks JJGrey LandryBernard LouisSkrmetta MarieGould MattSeese_Postcard PatsyParker_Postcard PaulDavidson RichieBlink RobertaAvila RobertCarney RoxanneOchoa Ryan Tammy_HerringtonPostcard TereseCollins TroyFrady_Postcard ]]>
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Victory in the Gulf: BP Finally Pays Up http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/victory-in-the-gulf-bp-finally-pays-up/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/victory-in-the-gulf-bp-finally-pays-up/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:24:57 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10369

Five years ago today, oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig was still gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting countless wildlife, oiling shorelines and devastating coastal communities from Texas to Florida. Shortly after the disaster occurred, both President Obama and BP promised to restore the Gulf of Mexico, and today marks the single biggest step forward in restoring the Gulf.

Today BP and the five Gulf states have agreed to an unprecedented $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the outstanding fines that BP still owes for damaging the Gulf. While details are still emerging, here are some of the highlights:

  • $5.5 billion to resolve Clean Water Act civil penalties, with some portion of that money being directed to each of the five Gulf states. This includes approximately $1.3 billion that will go to the RESTORE Council to implement comprehensive restoration from Texas to Florida, from the coast to the blue water. Read more about the RESTORE Act and restoration here.
  • $8.1 billion (including $1 billion down payment BP already provided for early restoration) to resolve natural resource damages that are directly related to the impacts of the oil disaster. We are particularly pleased to see that this allocation includes $1.24 billion for projects in the open ocean! This means that we will be able to restore impacts beyond the shore, where the disaster began and where we continue to learn about troubling impacts to fish, corals and dolphins.
  • $350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster.
  • Finally, $5 billion will go to the Gulf states to resolve economic claims.

One of Ocean Conservancy’s key concerns is that our government leaders are able to address long-term impacts from the disaster that we might not know about today. We are pleased to see a dedicated restoration reserve to address injuries documented after the settlement agreement. We know from other oil spills that understanding the full impacts to wildlife and habitats can take decades to fully understand, and we need to make sure we have money set aside to address impacts if and when they emerge.

After five years of work from Ocean Conservancy’s staff and our many partners, we are relieved to see one chapter of our Gulf restoration work end and a new one begin. One thing is clear: there is still a lot of work to be done, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that all of this money is spent in  the spirit it was intended and in a way that honors the lives that were lost in the tragic events of April 20, 2010. It’s time to get down to the business of restoring the Gulf and create a legacy that we can all be proud of.

Thank you for all you have done to help protect the Gulf of Mexico, a national treasure and my home.

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Postcards from Florida http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:29 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10205

In honor of the 5-year memorial of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the next 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we will be releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the third of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards.  Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of months to see all of the postcards.

The headlines we often hear about the Gulf of Mexico can get you down, from oil disasters to ocean acidification and coastal pollution. But it gives me hope to see young leaders of the next generation recognize the value of sustaining a healthy Gulf. Cole Kolasa, a high school student on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is one of the young leaders of tomorrow, who I believe embodies the spirit of the next generation that will alter the course of history and begin to restore the actions of the past. This is what he has to say about his Gulf of Mexico. 

Cole Kolasa
Student at Hernando High School and Member of SCUBAnauts International
Brooksville, Florida

What do you love about the Gulf?

I have spent a lot of time on the Gulf, under the water and on the surface. I have done research on corals, sponges, small fish, collected lots of data on environmental parameters, and spent many hours in the water surveying and exploring the reefs.  The one thing I value the most about the Gulf is the education it has given me over the years. I don’t think I would be the same person without it.

How did you feel when the BP oil disaster began?

I remember feeling extremely surprised and helpless. I was shocked that there was a threat of such disastrous proportions towards our ecosystem that we really couldn’t control. I wondered what would happen to the corals, sea turtles, sponges, fish, and other marine organisms in my area. My father was put in charge for the preparations for if or when the oil threatened our area, and I remember watching the news and always discussing what we could do to defend our coastline and reefs from the invading oil. Fortunately for us it never affected our coast, however what if it were to happen again?

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

I think that there are endless opportunities for restoration in the Gulf. Over the past few years I have participated in coral restorations in the Keys, local cleanups on our coast, and I’ve even seen abandoned coastal areas turned into fully functioning estuaries blooming with life. Even though we avoided the oil spill in my area, we still are working to fix the damage that humans have done over the past several decades. I think that other communities can still do the same.

More blogs from this series:
Postcards from Alabama
Postcards from Louisiana

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Postcards from Louisiana http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/21/postcards-from-louisiana/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/21/postcards-from-louisiana/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:00:49 +0000 Michelle Erenberg http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10123

In honor of the 5-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the next 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we will be releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the second of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards.  Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of months to see all of the postcards.

Chief Albert Naquin
Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw
Pointe-aux-Chenes, LA

At the edge of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana there is a narrow road bordered on both sides by piles of rocks and nearly open water peppered with the remnants of what was once thick marsh. This road leads to a small island, only a couple miles long and a half -mile wide. The island, called Isle de Jean Charles, is home to a Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, who settled there more than two centuries ago. The land, which sustained this tribe for generations, is vanishing.

Chief Albert Naquin has served as tribal leader since 1997. He reflects on what life was like on the island: “The land has changed in my lifetime from what it was to what it is today. When I was growing up, we could catch our fish, catch our seafood and wildlife that we needed to survive. Now we have no land; basically it’s all water.”

In the past several decades, erosion of the marsh around the island has introduced more salt water from the Gulf, changing the brackish water necessary to sustain the estuaries that provided the fish, shrimp and oysters on which the tribe depended. Chief Naquin understands the value of the marsh for the island and would like to see restoration efforts focused on restoring marsh in areas that are left out of levee protection systems.

“For restoration to be a success, I’d want to put some marsh back to stop the tidal surge. It’s the water that’s causing us the harm more than the wind. When I was growing up, you’d have to climb over the marsh to get to the beach. If we could get some of that back, it could stop the salt water from coming in.”

Beyond the impact on fisheries resources, the marsh serves another life-sustaining purpose: protection. The island was once surrounded by tall marsh grasses that caught the wind and buffered the island against storm surge and flooding.  With nothing to slow them down, storms bring with them frequent floods which have had a devastating impact on the families living on the island. “I left out the island when I was young,” Chief Naquin explains, “I guess I’m not so resilient. I fought a flood once as an adult, married with a child. We had about an inch of mud in the house after Hurricane Carmen in 1974. At that time we had about 65 homes, and today there are only 25.”

Many families have moved off the island leaving behind the most vulnerable and those with the least means. “We have some younger folks there, but I don’t know if the island’s going to last for them to see it. They may have to pack up and go. But there are others who have homes that are paid for. They can’t afford rent, or another mortgage, so they have to stay there. The displacement has had a big impact on the next generation. They want to be close to mom and dad, but they can’t.”

The cultural heritage and traditions of the tribe are threatened by the fracturing of this community. Chief Naquin and the members of the tribal council are struggling to hold the community together. In recent years, most of the tribe’s members have come to understand that their survival as a tribe will likely depend on relocating and beginning a new community further from the eroding coast. For Chief Naquin, this is not something that could happen in some distant future, the needs of this community are urgent.

“We can’t restore this community or the environment around this community, because we would have to continue to have money to keep it up, because we still have storms washing it away. For me, what’s important is to invest in a new community and to put money into a fund that would sustain the community. If we had that, we wouldn’t have to ask for help because we would have our own. That’s my goal, to be self-sufficient again with the tribe. But I’m running out of time.”

More blogs from this series:

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