NOAA Sea Grant's Response to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

NOAA, Sea Grant and other resource links for response and recovery efforts related to Spring 2010's Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill


Recalling Deepwater Horizon, One Year Later 

Launched in April 2011, this new NOAA resource Web site (click here) features:

  1. NOAA news releases on oil spill-related scientific discoveries and Deepwater Horizon science missions

  2. Scientific journal papers published on NOAA Research investigations of the oil spill and research missions conducted to support NOAA’s response and restoration efforts

  3. Contributions from cooperative institutes, including Sea Grant


Sea Grant Press Releases/News: 2010-2011


Other NOAA and Sea Grant-Related Resources



NOAA Sea Grant's Response to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: 2010

Leon M. Cammen, Director, NOAA Sea Grant
Silver Spring, MD, May 20, 2010


The explosion and sinking of the oil exploration platform Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22 has resulted in the continuing release of substantial oil from the ocean floor. The lives of coastal residents have been disrupted and many of them have lost jobs and income. Although the amount of oil that has come ashore remains small relative to some previous spills such as the Exxon Valdez, the amount of offshore oil is growing and the threat of widespread damage to the ecosystem and the fisheries is increasing.

In response, the Gulf Sea Grant Programs have stepped up admirably to serve their communities and their constituents. They have done an outstanding job of mobilizing extension and other program staff and volunteers from elsewhere in the Network to work with the affected residents of the area and help them deal with loss of jobs, income, and all the uncertainty about what lies ahead. They have been able to work with researchers to start some rapid pre-impact assessments and prepare for the aftermath as the oil makes its way onshore and as it impacts the Gulf food web. We have asked them to take on a leadership role in working with fishermen and the seafood industry on behalf of NOAA and they have responded. These activities are exactly the kinds of things that Sea Grant can do well due to its local infrastructure and its long-term relationships with a broad array of coastal stakeholders.

But all this has strained the already tight budgets for the four Gulf Programs - Louisiana, Mississippi-Alabama, Texas and Florida Sea Grant. To lessen the financial burden and help ensure that each of the Programs is able to contribute as called upon, we are making $200,000 available to the Gulf Programs for emergency response to this event. These funds are to be used to support time-sensitive, state-specific or regional activities that will facilitate Sea Grant’s ability to contribute to the national response.

It has been more than two decades since Sea Grant played an important role in responding to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Although coastal hazards is one of the four focus areas for Sea Grant, we all had hoped that most of our efforts would go into preparing communities for hazards, not responding to them. We should all be proud of the way Sea Grant has responded to this new disaster and look for ways we can continue to support the Gulf Programs in their efforts.


Oil-response Activities by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant College Programs
Updated: late-June 2010

Sea Grant has played a significant role in helping communities and stakeholders address the myriad of issues surrounding the Gulf oil spill. In addition, Sea Grant has provided significant support for many NOAA science and engagement activities which has been extremely well received and appreciated by NOAA leadership. For all of us associated with Sea Grant, we should be most proud of the role that Sea Grant is playing in the region. To showcase the role that Sea Grant has been playing, below is a short summary providing a snap shot of  Sea Grant's oil spill efforts in the Gulf:

Research

Regional Research Planning
Sea Grant facilitated development of the Gulf of Mexico Research Plan (GMRP) to identify priority research needs.  The Plan was completed September 2009 with input from over 1,500 people and 260 universities, government agencies, businesses, NGOs and other organizations.  At least 14 groups have already agreed to incorporate the GMRP in their strategic planning and/or requests for proposals, which have been used to fund millions of dollars of research.  In response to the oil spill, the plan is being revised to reflect immediate and mid- to long-term economic, environmental and social research needs.

Gulf of Mexico Oil-Related Research Clearinghouse
To further enhance the coordination of oil-spill research in the Gulf, Sea Grant, in collaboration with NOAA’s National Coastal Data Development Center, is developing and hosting a web-based clearinghouse that will provide a one-stop location for investigators and funding agencies.  The clearinghouse will include basic information on oil spill-related research projects and monitoring activities.  The web-based clearinghouse will allow users to enter information about current oil spill research or monitoring activities or perform searches and queries to access information that others had entered.

Oil Spill Related Research
The Gulf Sea Grant Programs have funded, or are about to fund, rapid response research projects assessing the impacts on commercial fisheries and shellfish, oyster reefs, salt marshes, seagrass beds, microbes and algae.   

Extension, Outreach and Education

Host and Organize Public Forums
The Sea Grant college programs are conducting public forums with their partners to help provide answers to questions the public and constituent groups have about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These forums are being held in every Gulf state, and experts from federal and state agencies, BP, non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector have been invited to participate. The forums provide an opportunity for Gulf Coast residents and businesses to learn more about oil spill related topics.

Organize Seafood Working Group
Sea Grant has helped organize a seafood working group to provide guidance and coordination regarding seafood safety, fisheries closures and approaches to re-opening closed fisheries and will provide engagement with local communities and fishing interests. The group is called the Fisheries Assessment and Seafood Team (FAST). Florida Sea Grant Seafood Specialist coordinated seafood sensory training workshops put on by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NOAA Fisheries.

Engage Legal and Extension Specialists With Fishing Communities
Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi-Alabama extension and legal specialists have been working with fishing communities to provide information on the spill and facilitate interaction with BP to help with the damage claim process. Legal programs have been providing legal explanations (not advice) of complex documents. Sea Grant’s two Vietnamese-speaking extension agents have facilitated Vietnamese-American fishing communities’ interactions with the government and BP by providing translation and being a trusted source of information.

Share Information through National Experts and Regional Website
The Sea Grant programs brought Alaskans with Exxon Valdez experience to the coast to share lessons learned with fishermen and others. They also developed a website with data and up-to-date information about the oil spill (gulfseagrant.org).

Conduct Hazmat Training Workshop for Cleanup Activities
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) coordinated Module 3 Hazmat instructor training for 33 professionals who will be on standby to work with BP’s contract training company, PEC Premier. MASGC and the Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems are also working with BP to develop a waterfront homeowner training module that can be applied Gulf-wide. Florida Sea Grant and Florida Cooperative Extension also coordinated several Module 2 and 3 Hazmat trainings, as well as several Vessels of Opportunity meetings attended by more than 1,200 individuals.

Coordinate with Others
Sea Grant programs continue to coordinate with National Estuarine Research Reserves, Coastal Zone Management programs, and the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Regional Team and others on oil-related needs and issues. Louisiana Sea Grant Extension Agent Julie Falgout is embedded at the Unified Command Center in Houma, La. The five Gulf state’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Services have weekly communication calls and have developed four task forces: Damage Assessment, Family Stress and Financial Management, Food Safety and Consumer Confidence, and Oil Spill Communications. Many extension agents are members of their Emergency Operations Centers and/or members of their respective oil spill contingency planning teams. Florida agents coordinated several pre-oil beach clean-ups that will help oil clean-up if it arrives on shore.

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