The National Wildlife Federation

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Restoring the Gulf

In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and unleashing a torrent of oil and natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to approximately 15,000 unique species of wildlife, including 28 types of dolphins and whales, five different sea turtles, and 49 species of sharks. A wide variety of habitats support this abundance of wildlife, including wetlands, barrier islands, coral reefs, and oyster beds.

The disaster's impacts on wildlife, and on the habitats they need, were severe and remain ongoing. The National Wildlife Federation staff, our Gulf state affiliates, our partners, and our volunteers have been on the front lines since the Gulf oil disaster began, and we're still there—working for the recovery of Gulf wildlife, waters, and communities. We have an obligation to aid the Gulf wildlife recovery and ecosystem restoration, and prevent future dirty fuel disasters.

Deepwater Horizon's Impact

Since the explosion, the National Wildlife Federation has closely monitored the scientific research on the impacts of the disaster. In late 2015, the federal government released an in-depth study, known as the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

This comprehensive study—and additional independent scientific research—make it clear that wildlife and habitats throughout northern Gulf were damaged by the oil and dispersants, and for many species the impacts are ongoing. The report concluded, “These injuries affected such a broad array of linked resources and ecological services over such a large area that they can best be described as an injury to the entire ecosystem of the northern Gulf of Mexico.”

Dolphins and Whales

Sea Turtles



The Gulf Floor

Coastal Habitats

Helping Wildlife Recover

BP and the other companies responsible for the oil spill disaster have paid significant criminal and civil fines. As much as $16 billion of these fines could be spent over the next two decades for helping Gulf wildlife and restoring estuaries, wetlands, oyster reefs, and other important habitats. We have staff working in all five Gulf states to make sure this money is spent to benefit the Gulf and its wildlife.

Restoring Gulf Ecosystems

The money from the legal settlements provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the Gulf—from the BP disaster and from the previous century of overuse. Our April 2017 report, Making the Most of Restoration: Priorities for a Recovering Gulf, details 50 specific strategies that would improve the Gulf of Mexico and its estuaries, including efforts to:

Reforming Offshore Drilling Policy

As a nation, we need to make sure catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon do not happen again. The National Wildlife Federation advocates for policies that will:

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 51 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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Regional Centers and Affiliates