A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.
This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.
Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana. You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.
Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began a three-month-long oil spill. In the later months of last year, after the gushing oil well had finally been capped, some people – politicians and TV talking heads, really – tried to convince Americans that the Gulf had recovered.
It’s true that we still don’t know the extent of the damage wrought by last summer’s oil disaster. The subsurface gusher created a whole new scientific challenge when it came to understanding exactly what was going on. And we’ve said that it would be years before we understand the true cost of the disaster.
Just recently we got a sign that not is all well in the Gulf. Since January, more than 80 bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead – and half of those are newborn or stillborn calves. The government is calling it “an unusual mortality event.”
Some sad news today -- the bodies of 20 infant and stillborn dolphins have been discovered since Jan. 20, most of them during the past week, on islands and beaches from Gulfport, Mississippi to Gulf Shores, Alabama, in what may be fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
That’s about 10 times the number normally found in the two states during this time of the year, which is calving season in the region. None of the carcasses showed any obvious signs of oil contamination; necropsies are being performed and tissue samples taken to determine if toxic chemicals from the oil spill may have been a factor in the deaths.
We’ll let you know if we hear any more details. In the meantime, you can take action to prevent another oil disaster by asking Congress to stop subsidizing the oil industry and transition to clean energy.
Jackie Savitz is Oceana's Senior Campaign Director for Pollution Programs. This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
In the 7,000-word State of the Union, President Obama seemed to leave out two letters that loomed large in 2010. "B" and "P" -- the initials of the company that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of Gulf of Mexico residents and did immeasurable destruction to Gulf ecosystems.
But BP was there in spirit. Its campaign contributions helped get many members of Congress and Senators elected, it was implicated in the oil industry effort to paper Washington, D.C. metro stations with ads, and just the day before, the halls of Congress were filled with lobbyists and others clamoring for seats at the Oil Spill Commission hearings.
And while the President didn't say those two letters, BP was implicated in his statement that we need to get 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035. Because who would be better than BP, a company tarred and feathered and now in need of a clean break, to help us build our clean energy portfolio so it can provide 80% of our electricity by 2035?
In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic today, Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser announced that Shell's 2011 plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska are canceled due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits.
Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific Director, said of the announcement, “We hope this decision by Shell will also bring a commitment from them and others in the oil industry to fully review the mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout with local communities, the public and the government. We need a truly open discussion about how to determine if we should move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, and if so, when, where and how.”
Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law. The slew of faulty environmental analyses and permit applications make it clear that we are not ready to move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, especially in light of last summer’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.
It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.
What’s wrong with this picture?
We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:
1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.
After several days of rough seas, the crew finally got a break from Mother Nature, making their difficult task of retrieving the moorings a bit easier. But the oil rig that caught fire yesterday set everyone on edge, especially considering how close they were to the Deepwater Horizon. Here’s Will Race’s update from the last few days:
Wednesday, September 1:
Rest and recuperation was the theme for today. After five days of exhausting work the Oceana team ventured back out to the Deepwater Horizon mooring sites to continue retrieval.
Due to time restrictions and rough weather, only half the moorings from the originally planned experiment were set. Yes, this is science -- things don’t always go as planned. The zones with the highest level of importance have been covered and other areas of interest will have to wait.
The weather continues to throw roadblocks against the expedition. High seas and winds up to 30mph made it impossible to do any CTD scans today, and made the ride extremely rough and unpredictable. Tables, chairs and anything that was not tied down became airborne after every wave’s crest. Eventually it got bad enough that the captain of the ship altered course for “smoother” seas.
Today’s journey took us back out to sea and the closest to the Deepwater Horizon site so far this expedition. The amount of activity taking place around the relief well is astonishing. As the sun set and the light faded, the entire site was illuminated and it was unbelievable how much is going on there. It looked like a small city skyline at night.
In today's update from the boat, Will Race describes the crew's arrival at oil spill ground zero to deploy oil measuring straps. As you can see from today's photos, the crew endured the roughest conditions on the expeditions yet:
The site of the Deepwater Horizon was the focus of the day. The objective was to establish a 10 kilometer diameter of moorings around Deepwater Horizon site. With an average water depth of 1600 meters, the Oceana team knew it would be a long day.
At 6:30am team members positioned themselves on deck and had the pleasure of witnessing a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunrise. Amidst the landscape of sunny cumulous clouds and dark unwieldy thunder fronts, there sat the site of the Deepwater Horizon. It was very noticeable thanks to the small city that has been crafted around the site. Shadows loomed over the spill site and brought a sobering reminder to what the objective of the day was.
While Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor gets a much-deserved break on land, Pacific administrative assistant Will Race will be sending us updates from the boat for the next few weeks. Here’s Will's first post:
Wednesday brought heat, humidity and eight new Oceana staff members, who will take part in a two-week oil plume experiment. Alongside Vice President of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor, the experiment will be led by Pacific Director, Susan Murray and Pacific Science Director, Dr. Jeff Short. The team will head out Friday to begin the study.
The Oceana Latitude also had to say goodbye to ROV operator Matthias Gorny and Oceana Pacific office staff Cayleigh Allen. The two embarked on a three day journey to Monterey, California, where they will participate in the Oceana Pacific California Current expedition and use the ROV to document important ecological areas of Monterey Bay.
From CNN.com today:
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected and at levels toxic to marine life, researchers reported Monday.
Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent the oil to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. Plankton and other organisms showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, according to researchers from the University of South Florida.
"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a marine microbiologist at USF.