Two months of at-sea research have permitted the organisation to collect a large amount of data to study the long-term impact of the BP spill
After sailing through more than 4,000, during this campaign the international organization has conducted studies such as: shark tagging, plankton surveys, contaminated sediments sampling and marine and seabed documentation.
Oceana has just concluded its first expedition to the Gulf of Mexico to assess the long-term effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. During the two-month expedition, 4,000 miles were covered, 24 diving missions were executed and two underwater robots (ROV) were used. In addition, thousands of photographs were taken and hours of video footage of the contaminated seabed were obtained, as well as data on threatened species and habitats and water composition parameters.
“What made Oceana’s expedition to the Gulf of Mexico different was its focus since the objective was to analyse the long-term impacts of the spill. Thanks to these two months of work on the field, we now have independent and first-hand information about the contamination that endures in the area and that is no longer visible after the massive use of dispersants”, explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe and expedition leader.
The expedition on board the Oceana Latitude, which brought together an international team from about 12 countries, was carried out with the collaboration of scientists from several institutions. For instance, a shark tagging study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Miami and the National Aquarium to determine whether these animals were capable of avoiding the contaminated areas. This activity coincided with the arrival of the tropical storm Nicole, which came with the end of the difficult meteorological conditions that affected most of the expedition.
Oceana also documented the hundreds of vessels and oil rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the chronic and unreported contamination in the area. Divers worked in these murky waters to collect samples of contaminated sediments and also to collect images in well-conserved marine reserves, in order to verify how the spill will affect them with time. Unfortunately, many of the spill’s consequences will not be noticeable until after a few years.
In addition, scientists on board the Oceana Latitude deployed plankton traps to conduct different subsequent laboratory analysis about the impact of oil on these micro-organisms, on fish eggs as well as on larvae. Furthermore, a network of toxic hydrocarbon measurement stations was deployed, equipped with sensors capable of measuring levels of contamination between the surface and 1,800 meters depth.
Despite the bureaucratic and meteorological difficulties, all the planned activities were completed. In addition, hundreds of photographs and dozens of videos were uploaded to Oceana’s web site during the entire expedition, along with the diary on board, a map showing the route covered and a webcam displaying the boat’s activities in real time.
Oceana has photographs and video of the expedition