USD 226 million in Deepwater Horizon settlement funds to fund marine restoration projects in Gulf of Mexico

Published on
December 11, 2019

Around USD 226 million (EUR 234.3 million) in funding from the Deepwater Horizon disaster settlement will be used to fund eighteen projects to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s marine environment.

Among the projects gaining funding as part of the Final Open Ocean Restoration Plan 2, which was formally announced on 10 December after a 6-month review period, is an effort to reduce fish and turtle bycatch in the Gulf’s shrimp fishery, which received more than USD 17 million (EUR 15.3 million) in funding, and programs to encourage greater adoption of devices to prevent barotrauma in fish caught by recreational anglers, which received USD 30 million (EUR 27.1 million).

NOAA Office of Habitat Conservation Deepwater Horizon Program Manager Rachel Sweeney said in a 10 December press conference the projects were chosen to reestablish the vitality of the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 disaster, in which a BP oil rig discharged at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, making it the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history

“The plan includes 18 projects … to help restore fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and deep-sea habitat that were injured by the 2010 oil spill,” Sweeney said. “This represents the largest dedication of natural resource damage assessment funds to restore oceanic resources in the Gulf of Mexico to-date. The plan includes a comprehensive suite of activities to address some of the injuries to marine resources resulting from the oil spill. These activities will complement ongoing activities across the Gulf and contribute to the restoration of the complex and vital Gulf ecosystem.”

The funds were drawn from a USD 8.8 billion (EUR 7.9 million) natural resources damage assessment settlement with BP.

One of the project beings funded will involve NOAA Fisheries working with the commercial shrimp industry in the Gulf to identify better bycatch devices. The project may include the research and funding of devices that are more effective than those currently in use, according to NOAA Office of Habitat Conservation Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group Lead Laurie Rounds. Specifically, one project will target reduction of fish bycatch, while another will aim for reduction of bycatch of smaller, juvenile sea turtles.

“Both of those projects are the result of us reaching out to shrimp fishermen and talking with them about some good opportunities for voluntary ways we could work with them to be able to both support the shrimp fishery and their target catch while developing a good restoration benefit for these Gulf resources,” Rounds said.

The full plan restoration plan, as well as an overview and more details on specific projects, can be found on NOAA’s Gulf Spill Restoration website.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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