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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Postcards from Mississippi

Posted On July 14, 2015 by

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 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we are releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the last 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 to see all of the postcards.

The people of Mississippi do not take their environment for granted. Like Captain Louis Skrmetta, whose grandfather founded Ship Island Excursions in 1926 to ferry passengers from the Gulfport Harbor to enjoy Mississippi’s uninhabited barrier islands. For more than a century, the Skrmettas have been working in the seafood, boat building and ferry service industries. Skrmetta and his family make their living off this unique attraction of the Gulf. Mississippi folks aren’t shy about speaking up for their community either. That’s what I find so incredible about Roberta Avila who has been a tireless advocate for more than 25 years and who continues to raise the volume of Biloxi’s voices so they will be heard by restoration decision-makers. These are their stories.

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What does the BP Settlement Mean for the Gulf?

Posted On July 13, 2015 by

Now that the fireworks have died down, we wanted to check back on the big announcement from BP earlier this month. BP, the Department of Justice and the five Gulf states announced they had reached a settlement for $18.7 billion to resolve outstanding fines and claims from the 2010 oil disaster. We’ve spent the week diving into the numbers and here’s a little more about what we know and what questions remain.

The agreement provides $8.1 billion for Natural Resource Damages, including $1 billion in Early Restoration previously committed by BP. Nearly 70 percent of the $1 billion for Early Restoration has already been spent, with another $134 million set to be spent this summer on 10 new projects. It is unclear at this point how the remaining $168 million Early Restoration funds will be allocated. However, in the coming months, we hope to see a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) from the Trustees that could lay the path forward for those remaining funds and the $7.1 billion in payments to be made over the next 15 years. This is an important fund for the Gulf’s fish and wildlife beyond the shore, as it includes $1.24 billion for “open ocean” projects, as well as $350 million for “regionwide” projects. While the exact definition of the terms “open ocean” and “regionwide” remain unclear, Ocean Conservancy is encouraged by this news, as we have long advocated for a comprehensive, regionwide approach to restoration, including the offshore environment.

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Victory in the Gulf: BP Finally Pays Up

Posted On July 2, 2015 by

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.

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Using Big Data to Restore the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On June 16, 2015 by

If I ask you to close your eyes and picture “protection for marine species,” you might immediately think of brave rescuers disentangling whales from fishing gear.

Or maybe you would imagine the army of volunteers who seek out and protect sea turtle nests. Both are noble and worthwhile endeavors.

But 10 years of ocean conservation in the southeast United States has taught me that protecting marine species doesn’t just look like the heroic rescue of adorable species in need.

I’ve learned that it also looks like the screen of 1s and 0s from the movie The Matrix.

Let me explain.

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Red Snapper Season Starts June 1: Not All Smooth Sailing

Posted On May 29, 2015 by

Photo: Ned Deloach / Marine Life Images

Anglers all over the Gulf of Mexico will spend their weekend getting ready for Monday, June 1,  the first day of the 2015 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishing season. Thanks to the hard work of fishermen, managers and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, fishermen will be able to catch more red snapper this year than the past 8 years.  While we are seeing increases in the allowable catch of red snapper, recreational fishermen have witnessed red snapper fishing seasons shrink year after year. This year the private boat-owning public can fish for a short 10 days while anglers fishing with charter-for-hire captains get 44 days. The charter-for-hire season is a solid increase over the 2014 season, which allowed only 9 fishing days for both components of the recreational fishing sector, but the short 10-day private recreational remains problematic. While there is no arguing that the longer charter-for-hire fleet is fantastic news for captains and their charters, the short private boat-owner’s season illustrates the need for management innovation for the private recreational fishing component that will help anglers access and enjoy the fruits of a healthy and growing Gulf red snapper population.

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Across the Gulf; Saving Sea Turtles in Tecolutla, Mexico

Posted On May 26, 2015 by

Hello! My name is Jessica Miller. I am an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, where I just completed my sophomore year. I am majoring in biology and I intend to eventually pursue a career in research. Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, I developed a deep interest in science and knew I wanted to do something with animals. This summer I am traveling to Mexico to participate in an amazing study abroad program that will help with the conservation of endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, as well as provide valuable information on the degree of marine debris found in the area.

On May 8th, I traveled to Mexico for the first time in my life. While many people travel to the country to explore the sites and relax on the beaches, my intentions are slightly different. I have an awesome opportunity to conduct research with several other students in my study abroad program. What exactly is it that we will be researching? Sea turtles, of course! More specifically, the primary focus of my voyage is the conservation of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. These turtles are endangered and quite unique as well.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are relatively small by sea turtle standards. They usually only grow to be about 3 feet long with a shell that is about 2 feet long. They are also one of the few sea turtles to nest during the day. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles also have a limited nesting habitat. They only nest along the Gulf of Mexico, which highlights one of the many reasons the Gulf is so important; and why the condition of its beaches is so important as home to a variety of marine organisms that do not exist anywhere else. More information on the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, along with other work being done in Tecolutla, can be found at the Tecolutla Turtle Preservation Project.

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The Evidence Mounts: Another Study Links Dolphin Deaths in the Gulf to BP

Posted On May 21, 2015 by

Yesterday, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published new results from a series of studies in which they have investigated the unusually high number of dolphin deaths occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Since 2010, scientists have conducted autopsies on dead dolphins to try and understand why they are dying.

They found significantly higher numbers of dolphins with severe lung disease and lesions on their adrenal glands in oiled areas than in non-oiled areas. Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson described the adrenal disease as forcing dolphins to precariously balance on a ledge which cold temperatures, pregnancy and infection can push them off, resulting in death. The lesions observed in dolphins were “some of the most severe lung lesions ever seen in wild dolphins throughout the U.S.” according to lead Pathologist, Dr. Katie Colegrove. NOAA is decisive in concluding that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused the dolphin deaths in the Northern Gulf: “The timing, location, and nature of the detected lesions support that contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint.”

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