New NWF Report: Gulf’s Wildlife and Wetlands Vulnerable without Restoration

Status of Sea Turtles, Tuna, Wetlands Seen as “Poor”

04-12-2011 // Miles Grant
Oiled white pelicans

As the one-year mark of the Deepwater Horizon blowout approaches, the National Wildlife Federation issued a new report today examining the health of the Gulf’s wildlife and wetlands. While some species hit hard by the Gulf oil disaster show signs of recovery, others will need the combined efforts of scientists, policymakers and regulators to recover.

The Long Road to Recovery: Wetlands and Wildlife One Year Into the Gulf Oil Disaster was written by National Wildlife Federation Senior Scientist Dr. Doug Inkley and reviewed by members of NWF’s Science Advisory Panel. Among the key findings:

  • The Gulf’s already-endangered sea turtle population has been dealt a severe blow by the oil disaster. Already strained bluefin tuna and Gulf wetlands and coastal habitats were also impacted.
  • While this year’s spike in dolphin deaths is troubling, the Gulf’s large dolphin population should ensure long-term stability. Prospects for recovery also look promising for brown pelicans and shrimp.

“While the disaster response has focused on removing oil, little action has been taken to address the long-term species threats and wetlands habitat degradation exacerbated by the oil disaster. Much more needs to be done to ensure a complete recovery,” said NWF’s Dr. Doug Inkley. “It’s also important to remember what we don’t yet know. Previous catastrophes like the Exxon Valdez have shown that impacts of oil disasters last many years, or even decades.”

Oiled Coast

The report is available both available in text (PDF) and as an interactive graphic at NWF.org/OilSpill.

“It will be critical to monitor these key species in the months ahead, especially given the unknown impacts of weathered and ‘dispersed’ oil remaining in the Gulf,” said Dr. George Crozier, director of Dauphin Island Sea Lab and member of NWF’s Science Advisory Panel. “This disaster hit an ecosystem already weakened by years of wetlands degradation, losing a football field worth of land every 38 minutes.”

The April 20, 2010 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and the Macondo well would eventually release nearly 206 million gallons of oil, providing a new setback to a Gulf ecosystem already struggling with years of wetlands degradation and the destructive power of Hurricane Katrina.

“The Obama administration has taken some important steps toward reforming the oversight of drilling, but so far Congress has failed to act,” said David Muth, state director of NWF’s coastal Louisiana program. “Without legislation to direct fines and penalties from the oil disaster to restoring the Gulf Coast’s wetlands and coastal ecosystems and a comprehensive Gulf Coast restoration program, the outlook for Gulf recovery will remain uncertain.”

Oil Spill Resources
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