The Blog Aquatic » marine restoration News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Victory for Fish and Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico Fri, 15 Nov 2013 21:48:26 +0000 Libby Fetherston 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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The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: There’s a Map for That Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:53:35 +0000 Matt Love Blue crab map from Gulf AtlasDo you know the Gulf of Mexico? Do you really know the wildlife that lives in its waters or how we use its resources—for better or worse—to support our economy?

I thought I had a grasp on this before beginning a multi-year project that mapped important things in the Gulf. Now that the project is finished, I know there’s even more to see than I knew about! Ocean Conservancy’s new tool, “The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas,” can help you get a better view of the Gulf too.

The Gulf is a complex ecosystem full of an amazing diversity of wildlife and an abundance of resources. We need to know what lives in it and where it can all be found so we can protect, conserve and restore this beautiful natural treasure.

Gulf Atlas coverThe atlas is a unique collection of 54 maps and related descriptions that illustrate and describe where you will find many invertebrates, fish, birds and marine mammals in the Gulf. Among many other species, you can learn more about sperm whales, whale sharks, blue crabs (see map above) and black skimmers.

You can look at the physical characteristics, habitats and environmental stressors in the Gulf. Sea surface currents, bottom sediments, hurricane track density and all of the known locations of coral are shown in the atlas.

You will also be able to see how people use the Gulf for recreational fishing, shrimp trawling and major oil and gas development. The areas set aside for coastal and marine protection have been included as well.

Not only is this atlas a great resource for everyone to learn about the Gulf ecosystem, but it can also serve as an important decision-making tool for resource managers who are charged with balancing the ever-increasing demands on the ocean with conserving a vibrant and resilient ecosystem.

These maps and their related descriptions are also important tools to use as we plan for the unprecedented restoration programs that are beginning to develop in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. These restoration programs are an amazing opportunity to help improve the health of the Gulf.

It is important that the critical resources illustrated in the atlas are taken into account in order to develop the most effective and comprehensive Gulf-wide restoration projects.

Check out the atlas now!

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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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Marine Restoration Report Emphasizes Importance of Offshore Waters Thu, 06 Sep 2012 17:55:04 +0000 Bethany Kraft

Credit: Calsidyrose flickr stream

Yesterday I wrote about Hurricane Isaac’s impacts to our coastal environment as well as the unfortunate reminder that an unknown quantity of BP oil still lingers in the Gulf, needing only time and the right conditions to once again wreak havoc on our beaches, marshes and coastal communities.

Events like hurricanes serve as sobering reminders of how critical coastal restoration initiatives are to the long-term sustainability of our Gulf communities, our economies and, of course, our natural resources. But as critical as restoration of our coastal resources are, they are only part of a larger picture of ecosystem restoration in the region. Restoration of our marine resources are equally important to preserving our coastal way of life.

Ocean Conservancy views restoration of the Gulf ecosystem as a three-legged stool. Each leg depends on the other for balance and function. If you lose one leg, you no longer have a strong base, and you will almost certainly topple. The three legs of restoration in the Gulf are: restoration of the coastal environment, the marine environment and coastal communities.

We must focus our effort, energy and funding resources to all three of these vital areas if we are going to realize our vision of a vibrant and healthy Gulf region. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are there competing needs for limited funds? Yes? Do we have to find a way to do all three? Absolutely.

When I talk to people about the importance of marine restoration in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (after all, the explosion happened offshore, and the vast majority of oil is still lurking beneath the surface of the Gulf), the first question I am asked is how one would actually go about restoring marine resources.

To answer that question, Ocean Conservancy, along with the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative (GOMURC) convened experts from academic, governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as fishing groups to serve as panelists in a workshop to identify and rank marine restoration priorities.

In a spirit of cooperation and creativity and with a clear recognition that our Gulf citizens and economies cannot thrive without a healthy marine environment, these experts spent two very long days discussing and vetting marine restoration concepts that, while not exhaustive, provide an important resource for talking about restoration of our blue water resources.

The outcome of those discussions, the Marine Restoration Workshop Report, is a clarion call to consider our blue water any time we think about restoration in the Gulf region from ocean habitats to fishery resources to marine wildlife and human uses of marine resources.

You can read the report in its entirety here.

Because the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unprecedented in size, depth, duration and distance from shore, there is relatively little experience to guide the planning and implementation of restoration measures specifically for the marine environment, with emphasis on offshore habitats, species and human uses.

This report focuses on marine ecosystem priorities in order to supplement and complement the assessments and resources that are devoted, appropriately, to the restoration of coastal environments.

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