Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: One Year Later

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, tragically killing 11 crewmembers. Over the next 84 days up to 185,000,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to threatening more than 27,000 jobs directly dependent on the Gulf Coast fishing industry and almost 15,000 tourism-related jobs, the largest oil spill in U.S. history continues to impact the Gulf’s many vital ecosystems, our food sources, and more than 25 endangered species.

One year after the disaster questions remain: What is the true extent of the damage? Will the marshlands recover? Will affected species rebound? How long will it take, and how can we better protect ourselves and our environment?

Thanks to the support of people like you, EarthShare’s member charities have had the capacity to be active responders from day one.

One of the most heartwarming success stories is NFWF_GulfturtleEGGrescuehow EarthShare member National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) saved tens of thousands of baby sea turtle hatchlings by relocating hundreds of nests to Florida’s Atlantic coast – one of the largest wildlife relocation projects in history. Please visit our site to learn more about how NFWF partnered with FedEx to safely transport the fragile eggs thousands of miles.

Here are just a few more examples of how EarthShare charities have responded in the region:

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE – EarthShare’s member organizations represent some of the world’s top experts in oil spill response and ocean and marsh restoration and ecology. Shortly after the incident, our member charities were called upon to serve as advisors for the Unified Command.

 

VOLUNTEER COORDINATION

  • Many EarthShare member organizations, including National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and Ocean Conservancy mobilized thousands of volunteers to remove trash from beaches before the oil hit. You can connect with them here for ongoing projects and re-plantings: GulfResponse.org, wildlife volunteers.

  • The National Audubon Society offered a sign-up registry for volunteers who wanted to help rescue injured birds and clean oil off beaches. They continue to call on volunteers across the country to help protect migrating bird habitat in their communities. Many types of birds have to make a long journey across the Gulf of Mexico during migration and the environmental disaster makes this perilous. Audubon is organizing volunteers to help these birds by making sure they can find plenty of food, water, and shelter at other points along their journey. You can locate an Audubon chapter near you to get involved.

 

INFORMATION TRACKING – In an area as large as the Gulf of Mexico, tracking and analyzing the impact of the oil spill was a tremendous challenge, but a critical undertaking:

  • EarthShare members Ocean Conservancy and Surfrider Foundation teamed up with SkyTruth to create an online Gulf Oil Spill Tracker. The interactive website catalogued many sightings of oil and oiled wildlife throughout the gulf region.

  • National Wildlife Federation deployed volunteer surveillance teams to observe more than 10,000 miles of shoreline along the Gulf Coast. The data collected illustrated the far reach of the spill and will aid response to any future similar spills.

  • Environmental Defense Fund is working to ensure scientific vigilance by establishing a long-term, science-based monitoring program to track the ongoing impacts of the oil on the environment for both restoration efforts and future disaster response planning.

 

RESTORATION – Here are just a few examples of how EarthShare charities are continuing the vital work needed to bring the Gulf region back to a healthy state:

  • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) continues in its ongoing efforts to restore coastal Louisiana, the degradation of which makes the impact of the oil spill worse for the ecosystem, fisheries and fishing communities. EDF teamed up with local organizations as well as national groups to restore this valuable resource.

  • National Wildlife Federation invested in a Mobile Bay restoration project that will provide critical nursery habitat for numerous finfish and shellfish stocks while more affected areas recover.

  • The Nature Conservancy’s continuing efforts to restore the Texas Gulf Coast, which features ecological restoration as well as the establishment of sustainable fishing industries, is already being viewed by some as a model for restoration across the entire Gulf Coast region.

 

ADVOCACY – Some EarthShare member charities are working for a cleaner, greener U.S. energy policy, passage of stronger environmental protection laws, and stricter enforcement of existing laws:

  • The Center for Health, Environment & Justice and Save Our Gulf have issued a 'Take Action Guide' toolkit to help you support residents of the Gulf as they fight for the full restoration and recovery of their communities and the ecosystem.

  • The National Audubon Society is asking people to urge Congress to fully fund restoration efforts in Coastal Louisiana.

  • Oceana is advocating for an end to offshore drilling, including testifying before congress and working to mobilize Gulf Coast residents and others to speak out on behalf of safe, clean oceans.

  • Earthjustice is representing the Gulf Restoration Network and The Sierra Club in pushing for stricter regulation of offshore rigs, such as the Deepwater Horizon, by the Minerals Management Service. According to an Earthjustice attorney, "..it is actually easier to get a permit for an offshore oil well than for a hot dog stand."

  • Wildlife Conservation Society is working to direct increased federal resources to the joint National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Wildlife Branch of the Unified Command, and establish a new grants fund for zoos and aquariums that assist in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, or research in the Gulf.

 

So much still needs to be done, and there’s a long road ahead to fully restore the Gulf. With your help, EarthShare charities will continue to work with state and federal agencies and conservation partners on restoration projects. Please join our email list so we can keep you up-to-date on the progress you’re making possible. Thank you for supporting EarthShare and our member charities.

 

 

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