Sea Shepherd & Ocean Alliance Highlight The Long-Term Effects Of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Goddard Space Flight Center

Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 is a joint Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance campaign that’s researching and documenting the devastating and lasting impacts of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on ocean life in the Gulf of Mexico.

An international crew is sailing around the Gulf this summer to study and document the chronic effects of the largest environmental disaster in US history.

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When Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, more than 200 million gallons of crude oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days. The unprecedented and untested use of two million gallons of chemical dispersants - which merely sunk the oil deeper into the water, into the food chain and out of sight - made the waters of the Gulf up to 52 times more toxic.

Although the oil spill is no longer prominent in the news headlines, it very much remains a threat to marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and to the oceans as a whole.

Although they employ different approaches, both Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance work in pursuit of the same goal: to defend, conserve and protect ocean life worldwide. Both also share an understanding that, as Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson says: “If the oceans die, we die”.

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The research is focussing primarily on sperm whales. As apex predators, these endangered whales serve as bio-indicators of the health and balance of not only the Gulf, but the entire food chain. The research involves taking samples of whale mucous, whale waste and other specimens to measure petroleum products, dispersants, metals and DNA damage.

Currently, Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance are the only groups conducting long-term toxicological research to assess the impact on whales of the oil and dispersants in the Gulf. Operation Toxic Gulf will provide the data needed to understand the magnitude of these threats to whales and other marine life and to create awareness of the urgent need to end ocean pollution. This is the fifth summer since the oil spill that this campaign is being undertaken in the Gulf of Mexico, and in one year’s time, the two groups hope to have compiled and analyzed the totality of their data in order to announce their unique findings.

“Four years after the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the harmful efforts to hide the oil from the public eye, the Gulf of Mexico is still plagued by this disaster which some might call the single largest act of eco-terrorism in history,” said Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson. “Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance remain committed to getting to the bottom of the after-effects of this epic disaster and defending this region and the whales and other species who call it home.”

Dr. Roger Payne, Founder and President of Ocean Alliance added: "The purpose of the expedition is to the measure the effects on ocean wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico by the giant blowout that BP had on Earth Day of 2010 in which millions of gallons of oil went into the Gulf up until the middle of August when finally it was stopped.

“During that time they used a lot of so-called dispersants to disperse the oil. What it was really for was to hide the oil so it would be out of sight and out of mind.”

Operation Toxic Gulf’s RV Odyssey is currently docked at Palafox Pier in Pensacola, Florida. The ships will be open to the public for ship tours on June 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The crew will also be available to speak to visitors about the critical work being done on this campaign.