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Why the Gulf Still Needs You

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Why the Gulf Still Needs You

By Jonathan Hoekstra, The Nature Conservancy

Is the story of the Gulf oil spill over? Not by a long shot. Does the Gulf—one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth—still need your help? As a scientist and someone who cares about the region, I can say: Absolutely.

Last April, just before the one-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I traveled to New Orleans to serve on an expert panel charged with identifying science-based priorities for long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. The panel was filled with oceanographers, ecologists, marine engineers, fisheries biologists, sociologists, biogeochemists and more—all brought together to review the science, debate the implications for restoring the Gulf, and write a comprehensive report that has been recently released by the Pew Environment Group.

However, I gained the clearest insight into what still needs to be done—and why—when I went out for dinner at one of New Orleans many oyster houses. I was meeting Cindy Brown, The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico program director and a New Orleans native.

I ordered oysters, anticipating a platter of Louisiana’s finest, only to learn that the oysters had actually been brought in from Texas. Then Cindy ordered chicken. As much as she loved Louisiana seafood, she said, she wasn’t going to eat it on a regular basis until she could be more confident that there weren’t any lingering health risks from the oil spill.

I realized then and there that long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico was about far more than just cleaning up the oil. It also had to be about rebuilding the oyster, shrimp and other Gulf fisheries, and about restoring people’s confidence that they could once again count on the Gulf to provide safe food, good jobs and other benefits of nature.

My fellow Gulf experts agree. Our report lays out three overarching priorities for restoring the Gulf of Mexico:

  1. Assess and repair damage from the Deepwater Horizon spill and other stresses on the Gulf;
  2. Protect existing habitats and populations; and
  3. Integrate sustainable human use with ecological processes in the Gulf of Mexico.
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7:28AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

Well written - very informative. TYVM

8:39AM PST on Nov 22, 2011

Thanks TNC

10:22PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

We have got to get the governments of the world to stop destroying it. We have to insist on, and use, alternative fuels, and make conservation the law, instead of it being divided into so many groups that act apart with so little result.

8:42PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

great article, thanks for sharing :)

7:41PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

The biggest draw to the area could still sell as tourism. What a surprise it would be to see first-hand what has and has not been done in the way of repair, how those living there have been impacted by willful neglect while maintaining profits for those living elsewhere, etc.

Not your ideal vacation but at least you get an education on why we're speeding to the point of no return.

Priorities clearly stated and necessary for long-term survival will cost commitment AND MONEY which is why not much will come of the recommendations stated as long as present government mindset remains frozen.

2:18PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

Visited Gulf Shores,Al in October. Crews are out daily,scooping up tar balls.The beaches I have loved will not be the same for a very long period of time.When we the people say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH??

9:11AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

thanks for sharing. I believe the issue is very important.

8:25AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

when this happened we knew it was going to be a long recovery we must *at all costs* prevent this from happening again.

7:50AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

Thanks for sharing. This must not be allowed to happen again!

5:25AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

It is very sad that this happened to start and how long it will take to recover.

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