National Wildlife Federation, Partners Hold Symposium on Gulf Oil Disaster

National Resource Damage and Assessment Symposium to Focus on Gulf Coast Restoration to Respond to Gulf Oil Disaster

11-02-2011 // Jaclyn McDougal
International Bird Rescue

The National Wildlife Federation is sponsoring the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Symposium with the National Aquarium Conservation Center, Mote Marine Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University November 2-4 at the National Aquarium.

NRDA for the Gulf: Improving Our Ability to Quantify Chronic Damages will allow symposium participants to discuss long-term effects and solutions resulting from the Gulf oil disaster. Since the disaster, scientists/ researchers have been studying the impacts on natural resources in the Gulf and working together to find immediate and long-term solutions.

National Wildlife Federation will host a panel discussion on how local communities can participate in the NRDA process to ensure fair outcomes. The panel will examine ongoing relationships with the Gulf Coast community to set criteria about the most effective ways to use restoration funds and how to engage the community in restoration work.

“The Gulf of Mexico’s natural resource-based economy is in serious trouble due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and now, with federal and state governments poised to recover billions of dollars from the responsible companies, we have a real opportunity to help jumpstart recovery. To get this right, it will be crucial that citizens and independent scientists have significant input into how restoration dollars are spent,” said John Kostyack, vice president of Wildlife Conservation for National Wildlife Federation.

“This symposium gives us the opportunity to work with Gulf communities to develop strategies that will ensure restoration investments are put to work to benefit people and wildlife,” said John Hammond, Southeast regional executive director for National Wildlife Federation.

“Gulf coast communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should have access to the most recent scientific evidence regarding damages associated with this spill. Further, a mechanism needs to be put in place that will ensure access of community representatives to the formal NRDA process,” said Erik Rifkin, interim executive director for the National Aquarium Conservation Center.

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory have been at the forefront of research to understand the effects of the Gulf oil disaster since 2010. Mote has partnered with NWF to bring experts from around the world and local Gulf of Mexico stakeholders together to identify a strategy forward.

“Past ecological disasters have damaged marine ecosystems through a domino effect, but it is difficult to forecast the impacts from the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Dr. Michael Crosby, senior vice president for Research at Mote Marine Laboratory. “Science priorities must include immediate comprehensive risk assessment for trophic cascades and response management scenarios. We must act now to establish a permanent BP-funded endowment with independent oversight to support — in perpetuity — the needed long-term research, monitoring and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Trophic cascades are chain reactions that can occur when a single key species or multiple species in an ecosystem experience stress or declines in population size, which in turn lead to dramatic shifts in the overall balance of entire ecosystems on regional scales. Identifying a strategy to move forward will be key in understanding changes in the Gulf of Mexico. An important mechanism is could be the establishment of a new research center designed to coordinate and focus efforts related to understanding trophic cascades caused by the Gulf oil disaster.

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