The Blog Aquatic » impacts News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Photos Serve as Graphic Reminder that Gulf Wildlife Needs Help Mon, 29 Oct 2012 20:27:13 +0000 Rachel Guillory

Credit: NOAA

NOAA recently released several photos of a dead sperm whale found in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began. While NOAA’s scientists were unable to determine the cause of death, this story does serve as a very graphic reminder that more must be done to protect the marine life in the Gulf.

This whale is one of two dead sperm whales that have been reported in the oil spill area of the Gulf. Two whales may not seem like much, but sperm whales are a federally listed endangered species in the United States, and even a small number of deaths could seriously impact their population.

Sperm whales, which can live up to 70 years, can be found year-round in the northern Gulf, and they are especially common near the Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was located. Sperm whales spend most of their time in deep water, diving to the ocean bottom to snack on giant squids and other ocean creatures. With all that diving throughout the water column, it’s possible the whales were exposed to oil or dispersants. The hustle and bustle of oil spill response activities can be equally harmful.

Should we be worried? Researchers across the country are monitoring the effects of BP’s oil on a variety of important species in the Gulf of Mexico, from seabirds and vital fish populations to blue crabs scuttling along the seafloor. These impacts tell us a lot about the Gulf’s health following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Using this information, Ocean Conservancy can ensure the restoration of this national treasure and protect marine life for the future of the Gulf and the communities who depend on it.

Luckily, solutions exist. There are great marine restoration projects that are necessary for the recovery of sperm whales and other key species, such as a large-scale tagging program for marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds. A project like this can help to improve estimations of population size, identify movement patterns, determine mortality and reproductive rates, and to take the pulse of the Gulf to see if we are really recovering from the BP oil disaster.

This is just one of the few projects Ocean Conservancy and other marine experts across the Gulf Coast have identified that can help to turn the tide on the long-term degradation of the Gulf and set us on the right course to a full recovery. If you’d like to learn more about how we can restore the marine environment in the Gulf of Mexico, check out our “menu” of marine restoration options.

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Wetlands: Going, Going, Gone? Wed, 27 Jun 2012 21:10:04 +0000 Guest Blogger

Credit: NOAA

A quiet victim went unseen in many of the images of oil-soaked animals publicized during the BP oil disaster. While many of us were moved by the plight of animals caught up in this man-made disaster, we should also be concerned for the wetland plants quietly suffering in the background.

Because of an expanding human footprint and natural processes, Gulf wetlands are declining at an accelerated rate exacerbated by the BP oil disaster. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, reported on in The Advocate, shows the BP oil disaster doubled the erosion rates of wetlands in some areas.

This critical habitat offers hurricane protection to the coast and serves as the nursery grounds, homes, food source and safe-havens to countless marine species. The Mississippi River is still working, as it has for thousands of years, to create these remarkably productive wetlands.

According to the study, marsh plants in Barataria Bay that were covered 70-80% in oil died. The loss of the glue that holds marshlands together left the ground susceptible to increased erosion. Heavily oiled areas actually show twice the normal five foot rate of erosion in the year-and-a-half after the BP oil disaster: a loss of ten feet.

Research shows that when marsh grass was replanted, some seedlings survived  in slightly oily sediment, but others weren’t so lucky. Replanted marsh grass in areas of wetlands that suffered heavier oiling and an increased erosion rate induced by the BP oil disaster simply died.

It is good news that marsh plants can be reestablished in somewhat oily sediment; the bad news is that wetlands with higher levels of oil residue and erosion won’t be able to support life without help. BP must be held accountable for all impacts. Some results of the disaster, like the ones discovered in this study, are just beginning to be fully understood. A long-term research and monitoring program and a well-funded and robust science program will help to ensure that BP makes it right.

Ocean Conservancy is committed to doing everything we can, in coordination with all willing partners, to advocate for science-based restoration plans that go beyond the oil disaster and address the entire Gulf as one interconnected ecosystem. And while wetland restoration is a key component, we need further steps to complete the picture. We must:

  • protect the region’s cultural and natural heritage;
  • increase economic opportunities;
  • enhance recreational opportunities;
  • slow the rate of land loss;
  • and sustain the entire ecosystem.

Together, we will build a vision of a healthy and prosperous Gulf.

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