Report Names Top Marine Restoration Priorities to Restore the Gulf
Shelley Sparks, Communications Manager
Telephone: (504) 208-5815
September 6, 2012
New Orleans, LA - A pending legal settlement, dead coral and oiled wildlife stress the need to restore offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. As decision-makers begin planning and choosing restoration priorities and projects, Ocean Conservancy and the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative (GOMURC) are working to ensure the waters of the Gulf are part of the plan. The two groups convened a workshop of experts to identify a list, released today, of top restoration projects and approaches to help reverse damage from the BP oil disaster and decades of environmental degradation in offshore areas, and promote economic value of the Gulf’s natural resources.
“We must seize the opportunity to fully restore the people, economy and environment of the Gulf Coast, including the marine environment where the BP oil disaster occurred,” said Bethany Kraft, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program. “The Marine Restoration Workshop Report’s focus on marine environments is meant to complement the significant coastal wetland restoration planning and implementation efforts already underway, and to serve as a catalog for making investments in the restoration of marine resources.”
The workshop produced short lists of the most important restoration options under the themes of ocean habitats, fishery resources, marine wildlife and related human uses. A repeated priority across all themes was the need for better scientific information to support decision-makers.
“Fisheries management suffers from a lack of accurate and reliable data on abundance and ecology of where fish live, especially for marine populations,” noted Dr. Bill Hogarth, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, host for the workshop. Priority options include the need for more frequent stock assessments based, in part, on fisheries-independent surveys.
Direct and indirect restoration options are also on the menu. As in coastal areas where oil was removed from beaches and wetlands, direct, on-site restoration efforts are possible offshore, such as removing marine debris from sensitive habitats. In some cases, more feasible offshore restoration options are indirect, such as conserving critical and sensitive habitats, and investing in research to better understand the effects of oil and dispersants on fish and invertebrates.
Successful Gulf-wide restoration also requires on-going monitoring of populations and habitats to both plan and evaluate projects.
“Science goes hand in hand with restoration, and determining recovery or detecting delayed impacts from the BP oil disaster is only possible if research and monitoring are implemented throughout the restoration process, said Stan Senner, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Conservation Science. “Monitoring and tracking of impacted wildlife such as sea birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, will not only help us gauge their own recovery but the condition of the Gulf ecosystem through changes in their diet or behavior.”
The workshop also recognized the need to show the value of healthy Gulf’s natural resources and businesses, for example, by providing on-going assessments of both market and non-market values of Gulf ecosystem goods and services.
Gulf businesses suffered greatly from both the spill and chronic loss of coastal and marine habitats and resources. The workshop engaged local stakeholders from the fishing industry and science community, and decision-makers from state and federal government agencies in Gulf restoration planning. “Fully restoring the Gulf is a long-term goal that requires sustained public understanding and support,” said Andrew Shepard, GOMURC Director.
The Marine Restoration Report, sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, GOMURC and the Florida Institute of Oceanography, is available for download here.
The FIO mission is to facilitate and support Florida’s emergence as the pre-eminent state in the nation for coastal ocean education. Development of educational and research infrastructure supports faculty and scientists working to understand coastal and ocean processes and communicate science-based understanding to Florida’s residents, educators, policy makers and resource managers.
GOMURC’s mission is to work collaboratively as a university-based research consortium within the Gulf states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in pursuit of scientific knowledge and understanding that informs decisions on state, regional, national and international resource management and policy and practices affecting the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and economy.
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