From microscopic organisms to sperm whales to marshes to the deep ocean, Gulf Coast wildlife and habitats are better protected from the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon/BP disaster because of our efforts. As stewards of our nation’s coasts, oceans and marine wildlife, NOAA is vitally concerned about the short-term and long-term impacts of the oil spill on the ecological health of the Gulf of Mexico and the marine life it supports.
Over the past 100 days, NOAA experts have been working with a network of partners to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles and marine mammals, as well as helping to determine the highest priority areas in need of direct response resources, such as the deployment of boom and shoreline cleanup crews.
NOAA and a network of federal, state and nonprofit partners are leading the way to ensure the survival of Gulf sea turtles through a well-coordinated rescue and rehabilitation effort.
On May 30, a 30-year-old giant loggerhead turtle weighing 136 pounds was found distressed and covered in oil. NOAA rescued the turtle and transported it to the Audubon Nature Institute where it was cleaned, given toxiban (activated charcoal), fluids and antibiotics. [Watch this Turtle Talk Town Hall video to learn more.]
NOAA sea turtle experts are members of the Incident Command’s Wildlife Branch that has deployed five turtle rescue boats in search for oiled turtles. To date, about 180 turtles have been rescued and 170 of those are currently alive and being rehabilitated.
NOAA Fisheries Marine Turtles webpage
From the earliest days of the response, NOAA’s Twin Otter aircraft has been providing aerial observations and surveys of marine life in and around the areas of the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill site, including dolphins, whales and sea turtles. Scientists are using information from these flights to see if marine mammals or turtles are being exposed to oil, to estimate short-term changes in number before and after exposure, and to examine changes in location and movement that may be associated with avoidance of oil near shore coastal and estuarine habitats.
NOAA scientists and ships are monitoring the Gulf to gather data on the ecological health of the Gulf of Mexico and the marine life it supports. This information is helping explain the current effects of the spill and will provide valuable data on the long-term impacts.
A multi-phase voyage onboard the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter is being conducted to assess oil exposure to endangered and protected marine mammals. Led by Dr. John Hildebrand of Scripps, Dr. Christopher Clark of Cornell and Dr. Bruce Mate of Oregon State University, this investigation involves a variety of methods to document marine mammal exposure to oil. These activities include assessing population demographics of sperm and Brydes whales, collecting habitat information, and sampling and tissue analysis of discovered carcasses.
NOAA Fisheries Service marine mammal biologists and partners are conducting visual health assessments of the bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the Perdido Bay complex near Orange Beach, Ala., to investigate whether the dolphins are exhibiting any effects from the oil spill. NOAA Fisheries is coordinating with the Unified Command’s Vessel of Opportunity Program to use one of the local dolphin tour vessels registered with the program and assigned to the Wildlife Branch.
NOAA scientists and ships are studying and monitoring the Gulf, from the phytoplankton to the sperm whales, from the marshes to the deep ocean. On June 15, the NOAA Ship Pisces reported a dead sperm whale floating 77 miles due south of the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill site. NOAA is currently in the process of conducting thorough analysis to determine the circumstances surrounding the mammal’s death, as well as collect information about its life. This information will provide clues to assess the possible effects of the oil spill on large whales.