Ocean Currents » restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:58:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 My Vision for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/20/my-vision-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/20/my-vision-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 12:55:27 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14191

Together we can get to a Gulf that is restored, healthy and thriving once more.

April 20, 2017, marks seven years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, taking the lives of 11 people and severely impacting the Gulf of Mexico.

As someone who grew up and works in the Gulf, I deeply appreciate all that we have accomplished over the last seven years.
Together, we saw the RESTORE Act bring much needed Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf states, and a global settlement was reached where BP will pay $20.8 billion dollars over 15 years. We now have the opportunity to fix not only the damage from the oil disaster, but also undo decades of environmental problems like water quality impairments. In the past seven years, we invested in scientific research and solutions to restore the Gulf. As a result, we now know more about our wonderful and diverse marine ecosystem with scientists discovering new species in the Gulf.

As a conservationist, I am excited to tackle the challenging work of restoring one of the most important ecosystems in the country.
An effort of this scale—from Texas to Florida, and from upriver to the deep sea—has never before been attempted. We have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the outcome, even in the absence of a guide for decision-makers to follow in order to ensure success. Sure, that’s a little scary, but to me it’s a very exciting challenge!

I am optimistic that our leadership in the Gulf of Mexico can lead the way for large-scale restoration efforts around the world.
Together, we can be an example for how multiple states and federal agencies can cooperate and build on shared strengths to restore an ecosystem that the nation relies upon for food, recreation and thriving coastal economies.

The way forward must be built on:

  1. Coordination and transparency: Wildlife, fisheries and habitats, rivers and estuaries don’t recognize state boundaries. If our restoration and management efforts are to be truly effective, we must commit to regional cooperation and integrated, cross-jurisdictional approaches. There are three major restoration programs in the Gulf recovery process with five states and seven federal agencies in the mix. This is complex, to say the least, but hiccups can be avoided with a formal mechanism for coordination. It will allow for us all to pool and stretch available resources, find synergies between projects and successfully negotiate conflicts that might arise.
  2. Science-based ecosystem approach: Science is the key to success. Countries like the Netherlands have conducted smaller scale restoration efforts and learned that without a strong foundation in science, we are doomed to fail. We must ensure that restoration replicates natural systems where possible, use modeling and science to guarantee the best possible outcomes and know when to change course if our wildlife are not recovering as expected.
  3. Think big! This is an incredible opportunity for the Gulf region to become a world leader in large-scale marine restoration. We shouldn’t be afraid of innovative projects that step outside of our comfort zone. Restoration at this scale calls for more than the usual restoration options. For example, mapping the habitats and species of deep-water coral communities in and around the DeSoto Canyon.

Yes, it’s been seven years since our Gulf got hit with the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.  We’ll always look back at the time with horror and sadness but now, we can also look forward to a Gulf that is restored, heathy and thriving once more.

Take action now. Tell our Gulf leaders to make smart investments in the Gulf beyond the shore.

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The Gulf Through the Eyes of a Child http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/#comments Sun, 16 Apr 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14170

We’re looking back on how the disaster has shaped our lives here on the Gulf Coast. We decided to revisit our 2015 interview with Calvin Love, my son, and one of the youngest contributors to our Postcards from the Gulf series. Calvin was six years old at the time of that first interview, and has since moved from his home on the bayous of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the salty air of the Alabama Gulf Coast where he is now able to more frequently enjoy the natural beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve invited him to share his story with us again, to understand how his perspective has changed over these years.

Matt Love: We last talked with you two years ago. What’s changed in your life since then?

Calvin Love: Now that I live in Fairhope, Alabama, I have friends nearby that I can play with without having to drive to go see them. I like biking to my friend’s house on my own. This summer I moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Fairhope so I can go to the beach whenever I want. The beach sand is really white here and I like to look for sand dollars and cool shells. I haven’t seen any sharks yet but I know they’re out there. For my seventh birthday we went fishing in the Gulf but we didn’t catch anything. I did see a sea turtle though, that was awesome!

ML: There’s a lot of money available to restore the Gulf after the oil disaster (over $20 billion, in fact). How would you spend that money?

CL: I would buy a bunch of fish and put them in little spots all around the ocean. I would buy clean water and put it in the ocean so the fish would have cleaner water. I would make all the people with boats put things on them so they didn’t leak oil into the water. I would have all the trash picked up that falls into the ocean.

ML: Describe one of your best memories of the Gulf.

CL: On my summer break I really liked going out with my aunt and uncle in the big boat with their dog Banzai. He is a big, hairy Golden Retriever. We went to Crab Island in Destin and swam with Banzai. There were a ton of boats all around with lots of people playing and swimming. On our way back we saw a dolphin from the boat and Banzai and the dolphin looked at each other. That was cool.

Calvin Love in 2015

ML: What gives you hope for the Gulf?

CL: I’m hopeful that people with the big boats will stop shipping oil across the Gulf. That people will stop catching too many animals and not kill whales and stuff like that. This gives me hope because people don’t want to keep cleaning up oil spills that’s not their mess.

ML: Thanks Calvin. I think you have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. You were two years old when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, and there is no question that your generation will be dealing with the trails left behind by decisions made before you. But now we are sitting together at a new beginning. We are embarking on one of the greatest scientific endeavors of our time, certainly for the ocean. It is our responsibility to help fix the things we’ve broken so you can thrive in a healthy, flourishing environment. It would be unfair to leave our mess for you to clean up. This broad Gulf restoration effort resulting from the oil disaster represents a contract between our generation and yours: to make the water cleaner, give nature a chance to provide more fish in the ocean and return those top predators you’re hoping to see out there. We are committing to provide that natural playground that supports your health and wellness for many years to come.

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Growing Up on the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/11/growing-up-on-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/11/growing-up-on-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14099

It’s been seven years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, and we’re looking back on how the disaster has shaped our lives here on the Gulf Coast. We decided to revisit our 2015 interview with Cole Kolasa, one of the youngest contributors to our Postcards from the Gulf series. At the age of 19, Cole has already been advocating for our ocean for nearly a decade. As a member of SCUBAnauts International in high school, Cole has studied corals on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and he has watched the BP oil disaster unfold as he grew up. We’ve invited him to share his story with us again.

Matt Love: We last talked with you two years ago. What’s changed in your life since then? What have you learned about the Gulf and/or the BP oil disaster since then?

Cole Kolasa: Since we last spoke I’ve made the transition into college and have been living on the opposite coast of Florida. Any time not spent at school is spent on the East Coast surfing or fishing wherever the conditions are good at the time. I’ve definitely picked up a few new favorite areas such as Matanzas Inlet and River, Mosquito Lagoon, and other various spots along the Indian River. I definitely miss the Gulf, and anytime I’m home I make sure I pay a visit to the “Nature Coast.”

Since we last spoke I haven’t heard too much about the oil spill. I did meet with some officials for our county’s water management system who told me that there were in fact dispersants added to the waters in our area meant to break down any oil that came into our area. At the same time there was a large decline in the coral population I was researching due to too much algae and invasive encrusting sponge growth. I’m not sure if the decline in coral health was due to the dispersants but it would’ve been useful information at the time of my research.

2015 Interview with Cole Kolasa

ML: There’s a lot of money available to restore the Gulf after the oil disaster (over $20 billion, in fact). How would you spend that money?

CK: I think I’d put it into making the coastal areas affected back to the way they were 100 years ago. “Re-Floridifying,” if you will. I hear stories from my dad and grandparents about the way things used to look like, and I wish I could see that today. So often now it seems that it’s hard to come by areas that haven’t been affected by development or other unnatural causes, and it’s been my goal to find those areas in the Gulf. That’s definitely one of my main goals for the upcoming kayak-packing trip I’m planning from Pensacola to South Florida. I know I’ll pass by some of the MOST developed areas along the Florida coast, but I’ll also see some of the least. I’m really looking forward to those moments.

ML: Describe one of your best memories of the Gulf.

CK: This past summer I was working a lifeguarding job close to the Gulf, and anytime I wasn’t working I was out fishing and exploring the nearby tidal creeks in my flats boat or kayak. There wasn’t a day I wasn’t on the water. I found some really interesting areas, met a lot of locals and new people, and really just felt like I was a part of these small coastal communities that dot the coastline. I really felt in touch with my surroundings and my little stretch of coastline I’ve grown up on.

ML: What gives you hope for the Gulf?

CK: Today you see a lot of people who are really starting to be interested in getting outdoors and exploring what’s around them. Maybe it’s just because I’m in college and meeting a lot of youthful people who are willing to take that initiative to get outside, but I really believe that more and more people are starting to pick up that kind of active lifestyle. That by itself will bring attention to the Gulf. More attention will mean more people will want to get involved and hopefully through that there will be more time and money put towards keeping our Gulf the way it should be, the old Florida way.

ML: Thank you Cole, for sharing your experiences over the last couple of years along the Gulf. I can’t help but think you represent a prominent cadre within your generation that recognizes and loves the quiet natural beauty still alive and well along the Gulf. I think you are right. There is a renewed interest and appreciation of the many benefits we now know these areas provide to our overall well-being. We owe it to all of you to emerge from the BP oil disaster with a path to provide long-lasting hope for sustaining a healthy future for the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Next Chapter in Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/29/the-next-chapter-in-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/29/the-next-chapter-in-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 13:00:38 +0000 Andrea Dell'Apa http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14026

Almost seven years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, spilling 210 million gallons of oil and killing 11 people. An unprecedented $20.8 billion settlement between the U.S. government and BP was finalized in April 2016. But until now, the full amount of funding has not been available to restore the wildlife and habitats affected by the BP oil disaster.  Payments from this settlement begin next month, including $1 billion set aside to restore the Gulf’s open ocean environment such as corals, fish, dolphins, turtles and more.

To highlight the importance of open ocean restoration, Ocean Conservancy has developed Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore – Part II. This informative guide includes what we consider the most effective, practical and innovative approaches to achieve successful Gulf-wide restoration beyond the shore in the next few years. A valuable resource to decision-makers, this guide is a natural evolution of the broad set of projects that we proposed in 2014. Part II focuses specifically on fish populations, as well as corals and deep-water communities, as these resources were severely injured by the oil disaster. Corals and fish also represent the marine resources for which the majority of available funding to restore the open ocean is allocated.

The Gulf is home to various species of fish, including tunas, billfish, red snapper and other reef fishes that are important for commercial and recreational fisheries. These species play a crucial role as top predators in coastal and offshore waters, and support a healthy food chain and ecosystem. The Gulf seafloor also hosts many corals, ranging from shallow to deeper waters. Coral reefs serve as the foundation of the Gulf food web, provide essential habitat and shelter for many of the fish species that support the local and national fishing economy and represent a natural wonder for all who get a glimpse of them.

In a nutshell, restoration is the process of repairing and rebuilding what has been damaged. Many lessons have been learned worldwide on how to effectively restore coastal resources. When stepping into the deep blue sea, restoration is much more challenging as the costs and complexity of any approach increase dramatically. Restoring deep-water species and habitats demands innovative approaches and the gathering of new scientific information that can help us reduce human impacts and other sources of stress on marine wildlife and accelerate their recovery. To attain this goal, we should also recognize that restoration of fish, corals and deep-water communities needs to be integrated, because these resources are ultimately connected. After all, it’s hard to imagine healthy coral reefs without lots of different fishes and other marine life swimming around them, right?

We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair and rebuild what was damaged, and support the Gulf and its unique culture. Restoration at this scale has never been attempted before, and we must ensure that ongoing and future restoration efforts in the open ocean utilize the most effective approaches that can allow resources to recover faster and thrive for generations to come.

With this $1 billion fund, we finally have a chance to restore the Gulf beyond the shore. It’s now the time to make wise investments for the Gulf’s open ocean.

Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore Part II

Download as PDF


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Small Steps, Big Rewards: An Updated Plan to Restore the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/16/small-steps-big-rewards-an-updated-plan-to-restore-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/16/small-steps-big-rewards-an-updated-plan-to-restore-the-gulf/#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2016 17:43:13 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13512

Today the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved their updated comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The updated plan includes small yet very important changes that echo the comments from tens of thousands of people like you from across the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll recall back in October we asked you to let the Council know that stronger language was needed within the comprehensive plan to ensure restoration is coordinated, comprehensive and based in science. Specifically, we want the Council to improve its project submission process and look for more ways to incorporate the best available science into their plan. These updates would ensure the best possible outcome for the $1.6 billion in fines available to the Council to restore the Gulf.

I’m happy to report that the updated comprehensive plan addresses all of these concerns. We spoke, and the Council listened! Ocean Conservancy would like to say thank you for voicing your comments to the Council and for your continued engagement on Gulf restoration.

In addition to improving the proposal development and best available science sections, the Council also added clarifying language to the fifth goal in the plan, “Revitalize the Gulf Economy.” The Council points out that a strong economy is based on a healthy environment and that restoration projects and programs contribute to a healthy economy by not only creating jobs but by improving and maintaining a productive ecosystem. We couldn’t agree more. For those who live on the Gulf Coast, it’s clear that our economy and ecosystem are intrinsically linked, and, in order to have a stable economy, we must have a healthy, productive ecosystem.

As we close out 2016, we are encouraged by the progress made this year in the Gulf. Six years after the BP oil disaster began, the legal process finally came to an end with an unprecedented $20.8 billion global settlement with BP. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation continues to make the Gulf’s marine life a top priority, with $26 million in new projects to restore dolphins, sea turtles and fish. And now we can thank the Council for updating the comprehensive plan ahead of schedule and for the many improvements they’ve made. With the first payment from the BP settlement coming in April, we look forward to more exciting accomplishments for the Gulf in 2017.

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New Leadership for Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/08/new-leadership-for-ocean-conservancys-gulf-restoration-program/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/08/new-leadership-for-ocean-conservancys-gulf-restoration-program/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 19:22:30 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12596

Gulf Restoration Program staff Kara Lankford and Bethany Carl Kraft on Monterey Bay in California. Credit: Rachel Guillory

Bethany Carl Kraft has been the eloquent voice and thought leader of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program for the past five years. Her leadership has taken our team through milestones such as the implementation of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act), a global settlement with BP that includes over $1 billion dedicated to restoration in the open ocean, and a Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan that lays out the strategy for restoring the Gulf in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

We have accomplished so much as a team, and it is with a heavy heart that I announce Bethany’s departure as the director of our Gulf Restoration Program. Anyone who has spent five minutes with Bethany understands her love for the Gulf of Mexico and her passion for restoring it. This passion has led her to her new position as the Senior Project Manager, Gulf Coast for Volkert & Associates which she begins this week. In this role, she will be getting her feet muddy once again managing on-the-ground restoration projects across the Gulf region.

As the Ocean Conservancy Gulf Restoration team goes through this leadership transition, we remain strong and ready to tackle the important work that lies ahead. We are committed to ensuring monitoring programs and protocols are in place, maintaining the integrity of the open ocean funding and advocating for coordination among the different restoration programs to avoid duplication and encourage leveraging.

I’ll be taking over as interim director of our program and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this dedicated team. I’ve been with Ocean Conservancy for almost six years and I can say throughout every transition this team has stayed the course and kept the end goal of comprehensive restoration of the Gulf at the forefront.

Ocean Conservancy would like to thank Bethany Carl Kraft for her outstanding leadership of the Gulf Restoration Program. She leaves behind a legacy of enthusiasm for restoring the Gulf for future generations and an ecosystem focus that will continue on in her absence.


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Monitoring What Matters in the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/16/monitoring-what-matters-in-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/16/monitoring-what-matters-in-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2016 20:12:24 +0000 Chris Robbins http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11505

More than $48 million has been invested in saving sea turtles after the BP oil disaster. Yet we know next to nothing about them once they hatch and head out to sea. (Photo by Ben Hicks)

Every winter since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, scientists gather in the Gulf to unveil the latest research findings on the disaster’s environmental impacts. This year’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference offered much of the same, but it was also different than in previous years. While the ink on the BP settlement dries, the Gulf scientific community is at a turning point, taking stock of the science gaps, needs and next best investments.

Almost six years after the BP oil disaster began, the program is now poised to evolve from one solely focused on the oil disaster to one that can serve the region more broadly by supporting science that could inform billions of dollars in restoration in the region.  The pivot to a wider focus was evident with talks on marine wildlife as indicators of ecosystem health, coastal vulnerability to rising sea levels, and online tools for turning many terabytes of ecosystem data into useful knowledge for policymakers and resource managers.

The BP disaster’s lingering environmental impacts remain a priority for long-term monitoring. And yet, as the Gulf undergoes rapid change, there is still so much we don’t know about how other human impacts acting alone or together will play out in the ecosystem. While many programs have been monitoring Gulf species, waters and conditions, there are large and persistent gaps in ecosystem knowledge, as described in our latest report, Charting the Gulf: Analyzing the Gaps in Long-Term Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico.

Filling every gap in monitoring or research is neither optimal nor cost-effective. Indeed, funding is finite, and we must be strategic about our investments. The challenge facing restoration and research programs is deciding which science investments will provide the most insight into the health and recovery of the Gulf ecosystem.

Simply put, we need to monitor what matters.

Now is the time to identify ecosystem science investments for the next 5 to 10 years. The challenge is twofold: 1) prioritizing and plugging important holes in knowledge about species, habitats, natural processes or environmental stressors of greatest concern; and 2) monitoring restoration efforts across jurisdictions and time, such that after two decades we can truly assess the effects of billions of dollars on the ecosystem beyond the scale of individual projects.

Gulf leaders are in a position to chart the future of science to generate the information restoration programs need to be successful. Stay tuned as we continue to prioritize and advance Gulf restoration science needs with our partners in government, academia and the private sector.

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