Audiences ask—Sea Grant delivers. The Sea Grant oil spill science outreach team has recently debuted three new Vietnamese translations of oil spill science fact sheets. Frequently asked questions: Dispersants edition, Federal emergency response framework for oil spills: Stafford Act and Oil Pollution Act, and Is it safe? Examining health risks from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are now available to view or download online on the team’s publications page. A limited number of printed copies are also available upon request on a first-come, first-served basis.
The decision to translate the fact sheets came after a lively evening of discussion with audiences impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In early May, oil spill science specialist Missy Partyka, working on a project funded by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program (GRP), hosted a pair of workshops in Mobile and Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The workshops provided a forum for attendees to discuss how they were impacted by past spills and to use their knowledge and experiences to prioritize their needs for future spills.
The Bayou La Batre session took place in the evening so that people who worked during the day could attend. Partyka arranged to have dinner and childcare available to allow attendees to give their entire attention to the evening’s agenda. Fifty-four people—many more than Partyka expected based on pre-registration numbers—came, listened, and offered their perspective on making coastal Alabama more resilient to future oil spills. Attendees discussed potential impacts to human health, including mental health; economic challenges, particularly for those who work in the seafood industry; and environmental challenges. They repeatedly mentioned the region’s ongoing water quality as a concern.
Communication was another hot topic. After any natural or man-made disaster, rumors run rampant. Agencies leading response and recovery efforts frequently face difficulty getting timely information to impacted parties. This issue is compounded in fishing communities across the northern Gulf of Mexico by a population with limited English who work in the seafood industry. Some residents in coastal Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana immigrated to the Gulf South from southeast Asia in the late twentieth century, with by far the largest group coming from Vietnam. At the event, translators from the community helped Sea Grant facilitators and attendees who were not native English speakers better understand one another.
“Many of our participants have English as a second language or are unable to read in English,” explained Partyka. “During this workshop a number of the representatives from the Vietnamese-speaking community expressed an interest in having additional publications translated, particularly the fact sheets and anything to do with dispersants. We were happy to make that happen.”
The Sea Grant team Partyka belongs to has to date produced more than 30 outreach publications designed to answer the oil spill science questions of people whose lives depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico. Print copies of any titles can be obtained by downloading this form, and then emailing it to Tara Skelton at firstname.lastname@example.org. The team also leads seminars and workshops around the country on various topics related to oil spills, frequently posting videos of presentations after the fact on individual event pages. To learn more about the program, go to https://gulfseagrant.org/oilspilloutreach/.
Featured photo: An attendee at an oil spill preparedness meeting in Bayou La Batre, Alabama holds up a flyer advertising the event, which had been printed in Vietnamese, and asks that other team products be translated as well. (Texas Sea Grant College Program)