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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

The New Gulf of Mexico Disaster Imperative: Scientific Baselines and Long-term Monitoring

Posted On December 17, 2013 by

Today, Ocean Conservancy introduces the first in a series of interviews with leading marine scientists whose research is helping to fill many critical and long-standing gaps in our knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico.

This blog series will highlight the need for scientific research and monitoring of the Gulf’s ecosystem. When the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began more than three years ago, we discovered precisely how little we understand about the potential impact of a major oil spill on the Gulf, especially on its already stressed marine life and fragile coastal ecology. The disaster’s lasting legacy is being shaped by our current response to this lack of basic knowledge.

Despite the billions of dollars worth of oil pumped out of the Gulf, and the billions more invested in the oil industry itself, there is virtually no corresponding investment in baseline science. The long-term impact of the oil industry on the Gulf ecology (which means looking beyond a five-year window) is not being monitored. Baseline science provides the status of the marine environment to which all future studies will be compared to determine trends in ecosystem integrity.

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Gulf Receives Early Gift this Holiday Season

Posted On December 6, 2013 by

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

The Gulf of Mexico received an early gift during this holiday season with the release of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). While this acronym may sound highly technical, the PEIS is an important milestone for public engagement in the early restoration process after the BP oil disaster, and Ocean Conservancy applauds the NRDA Trustees for this achievement.

You can find the full document online here. It’s nearly 2,500 pages, but don’t worry; in the coming weeks, Ocean Conservancy will conduct a thorough review of the entire PEIS and the projects in it and share our findings with you.

So why is a PEIS so critical to restoring the Gulf?

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A Victory for Fish and Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On November 15, 2013 by

sea turtle swimming near Florida

Photo: Lisa Kelly, Photo Contest 2013

In a significant step forward in restoration of the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the five Gulf states and two federal agencies, announced over $100 million for restoration projects across the Gulf. A total of 22 projects will restore a number of Gulf habitats and species, ranging from coastal dunes in Texas, to oyster reefs in Alabama and shorebird nests in Mississippi.

Funding for these projects comes from the criminal settlement against Transocean and BP, which were finalized late last year. These funds must be used to remedy the harm caused to our natural resources in the Gulf due to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and these are some of the first fine monies to be put toward restoration. (Click here to read more about the ongoing civil trial and what’s at stake.)

We are particularly excited about two projects in Florida that support restoration of offshore Gulf species: enhanced reef fish (think: red snapper) health assessments and turtle-friendly beach lighting. Marine restoration projects like this are part of the comprehensive approach that Ocean Conservancy advocates.

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Oil Disaster Trial Phase 2: BP vs. Reality

Posted On October 23, 2013 by

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.

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Tropical Storm Karen Leaves Tar Balls on the Beach

Posted On October 9, 2013 by

Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Residents across the Gulf Coast breathed a sigh of relief last weekend as Tropical Storm Karen dissipated (and as an added bonus, the humidity dropped). But as many of us feared, the storm kicked up more oil in the Gulf as it passed, and a fresh batch of tar balls have washed ashore on Grand Isle, La.

This is an ugly reminder that oil still lurks offshore, and we have not yet seen the end of the oil’s impacts on the Gulf.

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BP Trial Phase 2: What You Need to Know

Posted On September 30, 2013 by

oil-smeared hand

Photo: Ken Cedeno / Ocean Conservancy

The second phase of the trial to determine how much more money BP owes for its Gulf spill begins today. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Phase two of the trial will cover how much oil BP actually discharged into the Gulf of Mexico as well as the effort to cap the well. (Remember the summer of “junk shots” and “top kills?”)

BP says the U.S. government’s estimate of 4.9 million barrels of oil is based on “faulty assumptions.” BP says they spilled ONLY about 2.45 million barrels. BP’s estimate of a lower volume is based on the work of London-based professor Martin Blunt, who *ahem* used to work for BP. Either way, that’s a lot of oil, so why the fuss? Penalties for discharging oil (a violation of the Clean Water Act) are based on the amount of oil discharged. A lower volume means a lower penalty—potentially around $7 billion less.

(Click here for an overview of all phases of the trial.)

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As Coastal Populations Grow, How Will We Reduce Our Impacts?

Posted On September 19, 2013 by

International Coastal Cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy

Some of the fastest growing populations in the United States are located in the Gulf Coast region. The population size in the Gulf states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas is approximately 56 million, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.

Growth in coastal populations is expected to put additional pressure on coastal and marine environments, including wildlife and water quality. In addition, rising sea levels, land subsidence and episodic storm events will also challenge human communities along the Gulf Coast.

Our Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas helps us see these interconnected issues. Check out the map below to see coastal population densities in the Gulf: Continue reading »