Florida is famous for its beaches—it has more coastline than any other state in the Lower 48. And beyond all that sand lies an ocean wonderland of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and thriving fisheries. The state’s offshore attractions are nearly as iconic as its sunny weather, and that is why Florida leaders from a variety of sectors are working together to prepare for a changing ocean.
Last week, Ocean Conservancy and Mote Marine Laboratory teamed up to host a roundtable on ocean acidification (OA) in Florida. The goal of the day was to bring OA out of research circles and into the public space, by convening scientists, elected officials, journalists, industry and environmental organization representatives, and local resource managers to discuss knowns and unknowns. It’s part of a groundswell of attention to OA happening now in Florida.
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.
Happy Earth Day! Today is the one day of the year where people all over the world come together to do something good for the Earth. However, we see extraordinary people dedicate their lives to helping our water planet.
With today being Earth Day and April being Florida Volunteer Month, we wanted to highlight SCUBAnauts International. This is an organization dedicated to teaching bright, energetic teenagers about marine science using scuba diving in Southeast Florida. Representative “SCUBAnauts” visit us once a year in DC to talk about marine policy and tell us about their research and conservation work in the water. Their stories are inspirational, and we can’t help but share them with you.
The SCUBAnauts been the envy of our office since reporting that, in addition to scuba diving in tropical locations, they’ve been helping Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory restore coral reefs in the Keys.
Oiled beach at the Pensacola, Florida pier during the BP oil disaster.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will receive $10 million from a settlement between the US Department of Justice and MOEX Offshore, which resolves civil penalty claims against the Macondo well investor for their role in the BP oil disaster. The Sunshine State will use $5 million to reduce urban stormwater runoff and nonpoint source pollution, and the other $5 million will be used to provide conservation easements for lands around the panhandle of Florida.
Florida’s Governor Scott said “millions will go into clean water projects, so Florida continues its progress in protecting and restoring our state’s natural waterbodies.”
Ocean Conservancy knows the importance of taking the entire ecosystem into account during restoration and supports the State of Florida’s $10 million investment in conservations easements and improving water quality. The culture and the economy of the Gulf Coast depend as much on the health of the ecosystem as the wildlife that thrives there does, and this decision will not only provide relief for citizens, but also for oysters and other wildlife in Pensacola Bay and other areas of the Panhandle.
The Gulf sustains a robust seafood industry as well as recreational fishing and tourism activities. The five Gulf states have a gross domestic product of over $2.3 trillion a year. This is a place where the culture and the economy depend on the health of the ecosystem—as does the wildlife that thrives there.
Despite this abundance, the region faces significant challenges from not only the recent BP oil disaster but decades of degradation from coastal erosion, pollution, overfishing and excessive nutrient runoff that has produced a dead zone of depleted oxygen. These problems threaten fish, wildlife, the places where they live and the people who depend on a healthy ocean for jobs and business.
The BP oil disaster demonstrated how every part of the Gulf, from far offshore waters and fisheries to coastal wetlands and communities, are connected and interdependent. The region needs science-based restoration that takes the entire ecosystem into account. This includes both coastal and marine (offshore) environments. Ocean Conservancy is pleased science-based restoration, which includes the entire ecosystem from the coastal and open water environments, is a focus for the State of Florida.
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.
Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.
The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.
To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration. Continue reading »
Shrimp boats outfitted to skim oil head out of Grand Isle to clean up the massive oil before it hits the Louisiana shore, Wed., June 9, 2010. Credit: Cheryl Gerber
No question it’s a big news day in Washington. One big thing we want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the mix is the inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation bill that Congress will vote on this week. Directing the fines BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster have to pay back to the Gulf for restoration has been a key priority of ours since the early days of this ordeal.
Thanks are in order to Senator Boxer for her leadership in the negotiations and the Senators and Representatives from the Gulf States, particularly Senators Landrieu, Nelson, and Shelby, and Representative Scalise for their work in shepherding the bill to final passage. We’d like to thank Senator Nelson of Florida specifically for making sure the bill includes a science and monitoring program, which is always a crucial issue for Ocean Conservancy.
People fall in love with the ocean in many different ways: surfing, boating, scuba diving, beach-walking. Sanibel Sea School, a day-school program on Sanibel Island, Florida, aims to help young people fall in the love with the ocean through intellectual discovery.
The school is the brain-child of marine biology professor J. Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn, who have high hopes that some day all people will value, understand and care for the ocean. It’s a “broad-reaching, idyllic goal,” Bruce says, which is why they’re focused on a much more manageable mission to “improve the ocean’s future one person at a time.”
Or in this case, up to 30 young people at a time. Called “college for 8-year-olds,” Sanibel Sea School offers students aged 6 to 13 two half-day courses a day focused on topics like gastropod mollusks and mangrove forests.