CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Experts in science, conservation and business gathered for the State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit 2014 at Houston’s Omni Hotel-Galleria to examine the Gulf’s current state and the ongoing challenges of balancing its environmental health and its role as an economic engine.
The first day of the summit, which continues through Thursday, focused on the state of the Gulf of Mexico, which Mexico faces ongoing threats from nature and man.
Monday morning included talks from oceanographer and children’s book author, Dr. Sylvia Earle, who serves as an HRI Advisory Council Chair, and speakers representing Gulf States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, conservation groups and a Mexican consortium of marine institutions.
Lt. General Russel L. Honoré, U.S. Army Ret. gave a lively luncheon speech about leadership and preparedness with insight from his lead role with Task Force Katrina, which addressed the aftermath of the hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2005.
Monday afternoon, scientists discussed putting approved and applicable science into Gulf restoration plans that will result in improved and sustainable Gulf.
A report from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance shows that the five U.S. states that border the Gulf have a gross domestic product of over $2 trillion. Oil and gas development in the Gulf provides 27 percent of the domestic crude oil production, providing economic benefits enjoyed by coastal residents and visitors.
But not all news is positive, impacts from the Deepwater Horizons oil spill in 2010 are still being felt, and BP is preparing to re-enter Gulf with lease purchases recently approved and hurricanes and climate change are altering coastlines. Gulf dead zones, or hypoxic areas, are growing.
Research by Dr. Paul Montagna, Endowed Chair for Ecosystems and Modeling at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is linking statistical techniques with state-of-the-art mapping technologies to show the footprint of the oil spill.
“Normally, when we investigate offshore drilling sites, we find pollution within 300 to 600 yards from the site,” said Montagna. “This time it was nearly two miles from the wellhead, with identifiable impacts more than ten miles away. The effect on bottom of the vast underwater plume is something, which until now, no one was able to map. This study shows the devastating effect the spill had on the sea floor itself, and demonstrates the damage to important natural resources.”