Supporting a Healthier Gulf of Mexico
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest maritime oil spill in U.S. history. It discharged millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. In addition, approximately 1.8 million gallons of dispersants (products that break up oil into smaller particles) were applied to the spill area.
Many oceanic, or pelagic, fish species in the Gulf were injured during the oil spill, including tuna, billfish, sharks and mackerel, as well as deepwater fish such as lancetfish. Fishing businesses and communities depend on these natural resources, which are also a critical component of the Gulf ecosystem, but these species have yet to be restored to pre-spill levels.
To help restore these species, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) are working with the pelagic longline (PLL) fishery in the Gulf to launch a temporary restoration project.
The project is designed to help restore fish species that were injured as a result of the oil spill by reducing fishing mortality during a temporary, voluntary, six-month repose period each year where participating vessel owners will refrain from pelagic longline fishing. The project will continue for an estimated five to 10 years.
Participants will be compensated to help offset their loss in revenue during the repose and provided with alternative gear, which specifically target yellowfin tuna and swordfish and result in low bycatch of other fish species. By fishing with the alternative gear, participating vessel owners will continue to purchase fuel and supplies from shore-side businesses and bring fish to market. Working with participants, dealers and researchers on this portion of the project will also provide an opportunity to study and improve the efficiency of these types of fishing gear over time.
The project will be launched this year as a four-month pilot (from March 1 through June 30, 2017) to evaluate implementation, conduct adaptive management and allow further engagement with vessel owners, fish dealers and other stakeholders. NOAA and NFWF may make adjustments and enhancements for the full rollout of the project in 2018.
2017 Pilot Project Information
Restoring pelagic fish species that were injured by the spill will benefit the Gulf of Mexico in the short- and long-term and will compensate for the spill’s impacts. Reducing fish mortality will allow fish to grow and reproduce, helping support healthier populations of fish throughout the Gulf.
NOAA is authorized under the Oil Pollution Act to conduct the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process as a federal trustee and to carry out restoration efforts. This project is funded through the $1 billion in early restoration funds provided by BP in 2011. This project was included in the fourth phase of early restoration, released in September 2015, to compensate for injuries incurred by pelagic species. The project is tailored to restore resources impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and does not affect existing management practices or regulations.