Oil spill response, assessment, and restoration: Marine mammals

March 29, 2018 – Galveston, TX 

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The staff of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary opened the doors of their beautiful historic building located in Galveston, Texas to host the participants of this seminar. Natural resource managers, emergency responders, non-governmental organizations, conservation crews, oil and gas industry reps, academics, and many others gathered to learn about oil spills and marine mammals. Guest speakers addressed the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, new protocols for responding to marine mammals impacted by spills, how the Marine Mammal Stranding Network works, and what it means to restore marine mammals.  Speakers also shared the latest in using mathematical models to predict marine mammal populations, and the variety of information marine mammal health assessments can portray. Following the seminar, participants broke out into groups to discuss information needs, issues, and solutions related to marine mammals and spills.

Click here to see notes from the afternoon breakout session.

Chris Hale introduced the Sea Grant Oil Spill Science Program and the goals for the day. View her slides here.

Liz Stratton, the Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Disaster Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shared updated guidelines and nest practices for marine mammal oil spill response. View her slides here.

Laurie Sullivan is an environmental scientist with NOAA and was the technical work group lead for marine mammals for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. She shared information about the NRDA process for both big and small spills.

Laura Engleby is the co-lead for NOAA’s Restoration Center for the federal marine mammal restoration core team. She described what restoration is and she works with state and federal partners to plan and implement restoration for marine mammals in the Gulf. View her slides here.

Heidi Whitehead is Executive Director and State Stranding Coordinator with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. She explained the role of the Stranding Network in response, rehabilitation, and research. View her slides here.

Ryan Takeshita is a research scientist with the National Marine Mammal Foundation, and Research Coordinator for the Consortium for Advanced Research on Marine Mammal Health Assessment (CARMMHA). He described how health assessments of marine mammals can contribute to damage assessments and restoration plans and shared results from dolphins that were assessed during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. View his slides here.

Amy Veprauskas is a research associate and mathematician working with University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and with the LADC-GEMM research consortium.  She helped the audience understand how acoustics are used to study marine mammal populations. View her slides here.

Featured photo by A. Safonov.