The Blog Aquatic » gulf restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 How Do We Restore the Gulf Beyond the Shore? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/18/how-do-we-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/18/how-do-we-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:19:54 +0000 Libby Fetherston http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9034 Continue reading ]]>

In the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, everyone’s talking about how we restore the Gulf Coast. But the Gulf of Mexico is more than what we can see from the shoreline. If we restore the coast without restoring the deep waters, we’re only addressing half the problem.

That’s why Ocean Conservancy has created Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore. It’s a short guide to the wildlife that lives in the Gulf’s waters and it explains why it is so important that we ensure the health and safety of our fish, dolphins, seabirds, and whales (yes, whales in the Gulf!).

With over 15,000 species that call these waters home, and dozens of migratory visitors – Atlantic bluefin tuna, sperm whales and northern gannets, to name a few of my favorites – the Gulf plays host to incredible creatures and complex dynamics connecting land and sea. Even before the BP oil disaster, the Gulf was struggling under the weight of dead zones, overfishing, coastal habitat loss and more. With much of this damage underwater and out of sight, restoration becomes even more difficult to define, because we must imagine what we cannot directly see and estimate what we cannot directly count.

Along the coastline, restoration is defined as replacing something that has been damaged. It is a tangible process that creates new oyster beds, marshes and barrier islands. Beyond where the eye can see, however, restoration must take a different shape. Restoring deep-water species and habitats means gathering knowledge through science and technology that we can then use to reduce human impacts and other sources of stress and give marine species the best opportunity to recover on their own. This approach is known as natural recovery and there are few other ways to restore fish, dolphins, turtles or deep-sea corals.

In an era of shrinking budgets, science and knowledge have been something of a luxury in the Gulf. And now restoration funds resulting from this disaster offer an unprecedented opportunity to repair what was damaged, fix chronic problems and enhance what remains. The decisions we make now will impact the region for decades to come, and the only question that remains is: how do we invest in successful and strategic restoration projects and processes that restore the Gulf, on which so much depends?

The long answer? Restoration must be comprehensive: from the rivers that feed the estuaries, to the deepest expanses of the seafloor, where the BP oil disaster began, to the communities that call the Gulf Coast home. We must make smart and immediate investments that address pressing needs in the Gulf, as well as foundational projects that support ongoing and future restoration efforts. If we are going to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect and enhance the Gulf and its unique culture, we must ensure that restoration of the marine environment is an integral part of our approach.

The short answer? Let’s make those decisions count.

Want to make a difference for the Gulf? Tell our Gulf leaders to include marine restoration projects as an essential component of Gulf restoration.

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Lengthy Gulf Restoration Plan Needs to Dive Deeper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/03/lengthy-gulf-restoration-plan-needs-to-dive-deeper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/03/lengthy-gulf-restoration-plan-needs-to-dive-deeper/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:00:14 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7447 Continue reading ]]>

Photo: Blair Witherington

If you’re like me, the recent holiday season has erased some of your memory (I think it’s all the sweets), and you may be in need of a refresher on where we left off last year in the Gulf restoration process. Last month, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees released a long-awaited draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). This was exciting news for the Gulf of Mexico, because the PEIS is critical for laying the groundwork for a comprehensive, long-term and integrated restoration process in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

Ocean Conservancy’s experts have been going through the nearly 2,500-page document with a fine-tooth comb over the last several weeks, and we can now present you with our preliminary views. When the PEIS process started last summer, over 1,000 of our supporters sent messages to the trustees with specific recommendations on what should be included in this document to ensure the Gulf ecosystem is made whole.  Let’s see how well the trustees did:

Lots of fishing piers, but not enough fish

While the 44 projects included in this phase of restoration are a big step toward restoring the Gulf, only nine of those projects are truly ecosystem restoration projects. The other 35 are meant to compensate the public for the lost days at the beach, on a fishing pier, or out on a boat in 2010 when oil was still spewing into the Gulf. This means building new boat ramps, fishing piers, and beach boardwalks. The questions remains: Without restoring fish populations, what will we be fishing for on those new piers? In order to restore the public’s use of the Gulf, we must first restore the Gulf itself.

Need to dive deeper

We are also disappointed to see that the offshore environment, where the disaster began, is left out of the picture. The project types listed in this plan do not include restoration of key species and habitats, such as dolphins, seabirds, Sargassum and corals. As you know, dolphins in Barataria Bay are suffering from poor health; deep-water corals are showing signs of oil damage, and Sargassum mats – the floating seaweed that serves as a home for the Gulf’s tiniest creatures, including juvenile sea turtles – were burned during the oil cleanup process. Given this growing list of evidence against BP, we must encourage the trustees to hold them accountable for this damage and include these restoration strategies in this plan.

The release of the draft PEIS is a step in the right direction, and we must urge the trustees to make the necessary changes and additions in order for this to be a truly holistic, ecosystem-based restoration plan.

Ocean Conservancy’s goal is to send 1,500 public comments from Gulf state residents to the trustees before the comment period ends on February 19. If you live in the Gulf or know someone who does, please share this message  and help ensure the health of the Gulf ecosystem for generations to come.

For our full analysis of this big legal document, download our assessment.

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A Victory for Fish and Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/a-victory-for-fish-and-turtles-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/a-victory-for-fish-and-turtles-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 21:48:26 +0000 Libby Fetherston http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6961 Continue reading ]]> 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.

NFWF, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should be commended for ensuring that the marine resources that make Florida an international tourist destination often recognized as “The Fishing Capital of the World“ are closely monitored and restored.

While the jury is still out on the cumulative impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil and dispersants in the water, supporting recovery of reef fish and sea turtles is a wise investment. In particular, NFWF’s $3 million commitment to additional data collection on the fish and the fishery will aid recovery and foster improved ecosystem understanding and management.

The $1.5 million project to retrofit beachfront lights on or near important nesting habitat in the Florida Panhandle will greatly increase sea turtle survival, as artificial lighting can impair a sea turtle hatchling’s ability to reach the ocean on its own. Since Florida boasts 90 percent of all sea turtle nesting in the continental United States and sea turtles were one of the species hit hard by the oil disaster, this project is good news indeed.

Restoration is a long process and restoration in the marine environment, in particular, is a large and daunting endeavor, but it is critically important for the coastal communities that are dependent upon the beauty and bounty of the Gulf. NFWF and the Gulf states have taken an important step today toward making the Gulf whole.

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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 Continue reading ]]> 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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BP Trial Phase 2: What You Need to Know http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/30/bp-trial-phase-2-what-you-need-to-know/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/30/bp-trial-phase-2-what-you-need-to-know/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 11:00:15 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6708 Continue reading ]]> 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.)

2. BP agreed to a criminal settlement last fall that requires the company to pay approximately $4 billion in fines over a five-year period. One of the guilty pleas was for obstruction of Congress. In May 2010, BP officials told Congress that the company’s best estimate of the spill flow was about 5,000 barrels per day, even though BP’s own scientists said in company communications that it was likely much higher.

To put the penalty BP paid for all of their criminal counts in perspective, their profits for the fourth quarter of 2012 were $3.984 billion, down from $4.986 billion the year prior.

3. BP has launched a PR campaign designed to shore up the company’s assertion that they have “made it right” and to point fingers at Gulf residents, saying that many of the claims made as a result of losses incurred during the disaster are fraudulent and that the company has gone above and beyond in response and restoration. They took out full-page ads in several national newspapers asserting that they are being victimized.

The campaign moved into full swing during the month before phase two of the trial. According to The Hill, “Given that much of the advertising is in Washington, it may also be aimed at garnering political support to lessen pending Clean Water Act fines that are the subject of the ongoing federal trial.”

Tar ball in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo courtesy Gulf Restoration Network

4. Despite ads to the contrary, there is still oil lurking in the Gulf of Mexico and on our coast. We are just now starting to see science on the impact of the spill in the marine environment, like this study of its effect on sediment in the Gulf. Organizations like the Gulf Restoration Network regularly find oiled shorelines on their patrols, like this picture taken in April of 2013 at Elmer’s Island, La.

Ultimately, the amount of money available for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico via the RESTORE Act comes down to two things: How much oil did BP discharge, and were they grossly negligent in the actions leading up to and during the disaster? Let the facts, not a slick PR campaign, determine the fate of the Gulf of Mexico.

As the next phase of this critical trial begins, please do your part to #makeBPpay. Let the world know that the Gulf of Mexico deserves full restoration and recovery by sharing the following:

Make BP Pay!
As BP enters their second phase of trial, I stand with Ocean Conservancy for restoration done right. Let’s let the facts determine the fate of the Gulf, not their slick PR campaign.

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We must #makeBPpay! Let facts decide the fate of the Gulf & @OurOcean, not @BP_America’s slick PR. #BPtrial
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Gulf Restoration Plan Is Step Forward for Recovery, but More Work Remains http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/30/gulf-restoration-plan-is-step-forward-for-recovery-but-more-work-remains/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/30/gulf-restoration-plan-is-step-forward-for-recovery-but-more-work-remains/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 14:30:53 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6577 Continue reading ]]> Oil washes ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana

Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy

The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views:

If we hope to meet the future resource demands of a growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us, we must put the ocean at the center of what we do. The ocean provides us with food, energy, transportation, carbon storage and more—it is truly our greatest natural resource.

Nowhere is this more true than in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is a national treasure and a significant driver of the U.S. economy, providing resources for food, recreation and livelihoods.

But the Gulf is still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as well as decades of ecosystem decline. Restoring this region to health is the only way to ensure that we can enjoy its many benefits for generations to come.

That task lies in the hands of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which just released its “Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy.” This plan is intended to serve as a framework to implement a coordinated, Gulf-wide restoration effort using RESTORE Act funding. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something great for the Gulf.

The Gulf Council’s plan is another small but important step forward in Gulf recovery, but we aren’t there yet.

Click here to read the full post, including Ocean Conservancy’s recommendations for next steps.

 

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Next Steps in Gulf Recovery: Restoring Region’s Health and Livelihoods http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/26/next-steps-in-gulf-recovery-restoring-regions-health-and-livelihoods/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/26/next-steps-in-gulf-recovery-restoring-regions-health-and-livelihoods/#comments Fri, 26 Jul 2013 14:25:39 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6409 Continue reading ]]> shrimp boat

Credit: Bethany Kraft / Ocean Conservancy

With yesterday’s news that Halliburton intentionally destroyed evidence related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we are seeing that the truth about that disaster is still coming out. The company’s callousness at least has one bright side—it will provide more resources to an important restoration organization. But this isn’t enough.

The people of the Gulf are still suffering from this tragedy.

Three years ago, I found myself at a late-night community meeting on the coast in Alabama to discuss the oil disaster. At that point, oil was still spewing uncontrolled from the wellhead and huge portions of the Gulf were closed to fishing—meaning that thousands of people were out of a job and countless more were unable to enjoy doing the things they’d always taken for granted, like fishing, boating and swimming in the Gulf.

About an hour in, a broad-shouldered, weathered man stood up to discuss what this disaster meant for him. He explained that he made his living as a fisherman and now couldn’t afford to feed his family. As he talked, his voice began to break, and he struggled to keep talking through the tears. It was then that I knew this disaster was deeper than the sheen on the water; it was in the hearts of each Gulf resident.

I think about him often. I think about how we all felt during that awful summer. I remember how unsure we were that life would ever be the same.

I know it’s easy to forget how fearful we were when the oil was gushing. But the truth is we were and still are feeling the impacts of that summer. Luckily, there is a process called the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). The purpose of the assessment is to compensate the people of the Gulf for the impacts to our natural resources and our lost use and enjoyment of those resources.

Funding to restore the Gulf of Mexico should fully compensate the public for their losses and include the marine environment where the spill happened in the first place. Unfortunately, the money available for this process could be used for projects that don’t help fix the damage done.

We need the NRDA Trustees to spend Gulf restoration funds on bringing back the health and livelihoods of the Gulf region.

NRDA funds are intended to support projects like:

  • Restoring fisheries
  • Restoring oyster reefs
  • Constructing living shorelines
  • Restoring dunes damaged in the BP response effort
  • Enhancing nesting areas for seabirds and turtles
  • Restoring sea grass beds

Right now, we have the opportunity to make sure the trustees listen to the people of the Gulf. They need to understand we won’t stand by and watch funding get misused on projects that don’t work to restore the natural resources we rely on every day.

Ocean Conservancy’s goal is to send 1,000 public comments from Gulf state residents to the trustees before the comment period ends on Aug. 2. If you live in the Gulf or know someone who does, please share this message and help ensure that funding to restore the Gulf is used for its intended purposes for years to come.

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