New Atlas Highlights Damaged & Threatened Gulf Ecosystems

GMC – June 27, 2013: As the Gulf Coast continues to clean up from the largest accidental oil-spill on the planet, there are many important and sensitive ecosystems that have been damaged, or are threatened by future human activity.  To guide decision-makers planning restoration and preservation projects in the Gulf of Mexico, the Ocean Conservancy has released an atlas of this important ecosystem. This great resource contains a wealth of information about the Gulf, and highlights some of the many special  places that Gulf Monitoring Consortium member organizations work to understand and protect.

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Ocean Conservancy – June 2013: A vast and bountiful place, the Gulf of Mexico is one of the nation’s most diverse ecosystems. Ocean Conservancy has developed a region-wide coastal and marine atlas to aid decision-makers as they plan current and future restoration and management strategies in the region.

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas includes maps and companion descriptions of 54 physical and geographic features, animals, habitats, environmental stressors and human uses in the Gulf of Mexico.

By accessing the best data available, scientists at Ocean Conservancy have created a suite of easily readable maps to show how the Gulf’s coastal and marine ecosystems are connected and interdependent.

The atlas was developed to:

  • Provide a big-picture view of the Gulf of Mexico and its resources
  • Support a multi-layered understanding of how the Gulf ecosystem functions
  • Highlight overlapping distributions and ecological linkages
  • Serve as a tool for identifying knowledge gaps

Restoring the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem requires a holistic approach that addresses not only the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster but also the reversal of long-term environmental degradation. The goal of the atlas is to serve as a reference tool and help decision-makers determine how best to allocate funding toward restoration efforts.

Using the Atlas

Species recovery—Use the maps to identify and target areas of overlapping species ranges to implement restoration measures that benefit multiple species.

Hazardous material spill planning and response—Use the distributions of species and habitats to identify resources at greatest risk from oil spills.

Ocean resource management—Use the distribution map of rare, slow-growing deep-water corals to inform the siting of oil and gas platforms and pipelines.

Learn how you can help Ocean Conservancy restore a healthy and prosperous Gulf of Mexico for the wildlife and the people who depend on this important resource.

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Explore the natural and man-made features of the Gulf through this interactive map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

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GMC Members Vote to Update Consortium Guidelines and Principles

In April, Gulf Monitoring Consortium (GMC) welcomed Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) and Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) as the newest members of our integrated pollution monitoring and response alliance. These new partners are well-established environmental organizations who bring new expertise and local resources to help monitor and respond to pollution in and around the Gulf of Mexico.  To better reflect the capacities of our growing Consortium and identify the forms of pollution that we address, GMC members have voted to update our membership guidelines and key principles in three main areas:

  • Expand our area of focus from the “Gulf of Mexico” to the “Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast Region…,” which recognizes land-based pollution issues that directly impact the health of the Gulf of Mexico and that our new partners are specifically qualified to address. 
  • Clarifies our pollution focus to “fossil fuel and petrochemical” pollution, which incorporates spills from oil and gas drilling offshore, leaks and releases from petrochemical refining and storage onshore, and other fossil fuels such as coal and petcoke transported through and stockpiled in the Gulf Region.
  • Identifies our that the ultimate goal of GMC’s monitoring and response efforts is to “reduce pollution” by seeing that reporting is accurate and all of the impacts of these activities are easily understood by all and are accounted for by decision-makers.

For more detail, see our membership guidelines and key principles.

House Democrats Find Little Change in Drilling Incidents/Violations: Offshore Safety Lapses Continue Three Years After BP Spill

A report issued by the Democrats of the House Committee on Natural Resources concluded that offshore drilling safety lapses continue even three years after the BP Spill in 2010. In a press release, Representative Ed Markey (D-5th District, MA), ranking member on the House Committee on Natural Resources said, “Oil and gas companies with the worst safety records in the Gulf before the BP disaster continue to spill oil, lose control of their wells and rack up safety violations today.” The report was prepared by Markey’s Natural Resources committee staff based on data from the Technical Information Management System (TIMS) database maintained by the Department of the Interior (DOI).

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April 22, 2010 – Deepwater Horizon rig fire,
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard.

The report found, “companies with the most serious environmental or safety violations before the BP spill are still racking up the most violations today. BP, which is among the top violators since 2000, actually has been cited for more major offshore violations in the last two years than before the spill.” The British petroleum giant has been subject to increased scrutiny after their damaged well suffered a blow-out and spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into Gulf in the largest non-wartime oil spill in human history. However, other top polluters such as Shell continue to rack up violations and loss-of-control incidents, and were no more likely to be inspected post-BP than they were before the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The report found a few positive notes, however, such as 50% fewer injuries from off-shore drilling incidents and fewer loss-of-control incidents since the DOI adopted stronger regulations in 2010. Gulf Monitoring Consortium members keep a watchful eye on the chronically polluting fossil fuel industry from space, the sky, and the surface – read more about us at:      http://www.gulfmonitor.org/about/current-members/

Read the full post-BP offshore safety and environmental protection report here:

Dangerous Drillers: Offshore Safety Lapses Continue Three Years after BP Spill

Gulf Restoration Network & Louisiana Bucket Brigade Join GMC

GMC.Feature.ImageThe Gulf Monitoring Consortium (GMC) welcomes the Gulf Restoration Network and Louisiana Bucket Brigade as the newest partners in a collaborative effort to detect and respond to oil and petrochemical pollution in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Both the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) and Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) have been working with the Consortium for some time and we are pleased to announce their official membership in our cooperative effort.

GRN and LABB bring substantial local knowledge, resources, and reputation to the Consortium, improving the GMC’s connection to local communities and strengthening our objective voice in the Gulf on pollution issues. The Gulf Restoration Network is committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the vital but imperiled natural resources of the Gulf Region. Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s mission is to support communities using grassroots action (such as air quality sampling with EPA-approved “buckets”) to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.

The GMC is an innovative partnership combining remote sensing technologies, aerial observation, and photography; and resources on-the-ground and in-the-water to detect, document, and respond to pollution. Each member contributes their expertise to this integrated approach – SkyTruth provides guidance on areas of concern based on image analysis and digital mapping, SouthWings coordinates volunteer pilots to get GMC members in the air to monitor for and document pollution incidents, and Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Waterkeeper Alliance members such as the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper provide both local knowledge of on-going issues and resources on the surface to “groundtruth” what we observe from the sky.

Read more about the leaks and spills GRN documented on a routine monitoring flight in March with Southwings, and explore LABB’s iWitness Pollution map powered by SkyTruth Alerts.

Minor oil spills are often bigger than reported: GMC Member SkyTruth contributes to study of chronic oil spills

Chronic oil slick at a Taylor Energy platform 23051, damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. BILLY DUGGER/ONWINGSOFCARE.ORG

SkyTruth, Shepherdstown, WV – In collaboration with Gulf Monitoring Consortium member SkyTruth, Florida State University recently presented to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana the findings of a study that found oil spills in the Gulf are often under-estimated. Samira Daneshgar Asl, a FSU graduate student, analysed an extensive set of radar satellite images of detected oil slicks, and found that spills caused by human activity were consistently 13 times larger than reported to National Response Center, a federal repository operated by the Coast Guard for documenting pollution incidents. This study coincides with conclusions drawn in the GMC’s first 6-Month report – read more about the key findings of that report here.

The preliminary findings of the study were covered by the Nature news blog:

http://www.nature.com/news/minor-oil-spills-are-often-bigger-than-reported-1.12307