BP Oil Disaster: Where is the Gulf now, and where do we go from here?
The explosion that took place on April 20, 2010, and the resulting 250 million gallons of oil that spilled into the Gulf continues to challenge our region. This week, the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers released their report “State of the Gulf: A status report from the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers in the wake of the BP Oil Disaster.” The seven Waterkeepers that make up Save Our Gulf and who worked jointly to release this report include Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Emerald Coastkeeper, Galveston Baykeeper, Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, and Mobile Baykeeper. Our report focuses on seven key findings, which came out of concerns from our communities and collectively reflect the focus of our continued work in the wake of this large-scale disaster to our region.
The Gulf Coast serves as a resource for the entire nation. The Gulf of Mexico has one of the most productive fisheries in the world, providing more than two-thirds of the nation’s shrimp and oysters along with four of the top seven fishing ports by weight. As mothers, we should all be concerned with the health of the Gulf and its ability to safely provide sustenance for our children. Regionally, Gulf residents rely heavily on the Gulf to sustain us. In addition to the food it provides to our citizens, its four largest industries – oil, tourism, fishing and shipping – provide nearly $156 billion in economic activity each year. If the Gulf and its resources collapse, there will be dire consequences felt not only regionally but also throughout the nation.
Save our Gulf Waterkeepers are asking for your help. We must protect and restore the Gulf so that our region, as well as our nation, can continue to benefit from its abundance of resources. To do so, we must demand long-term monitoring to fully understand the consequences of this disaster; conserve and restore our wetlands and other valuable coastal resources; ensure citizens are provided opportunities for input – on restoration decisions and through the creation of a Regional Citizens Advisory Council (RCAC) to provide oversight influence over drilling in areas heavily impacted by the oil industry; and most importantly, funding these efforts by sending Clean Water Act penalties against BP to the Gulf for restoration. This is a pivotal moment for the Gulf. The time for restoration and building sustainable communities is now. We must move past our legacy of oil pollution and show leadership in sustainability to thrive as a region in the wake of these events.
You can help by urging your congressional leaders to dedicate Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the BP oil disaster to the Gulf Coast for ecosystem restoration. Encourage them to include citizen input in decisions regarding restoration and by creating an RCAC to provide input on future oil and gas activity in the region. Lastly, you can remember that we are still here in our communities struggling to move forward. This oil disaster is not over for us, and the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers will be here working to protect and restore our communities in the years to come.