The science is in, and it finds BP and its contractors failed to learn from "near misses," and made risky decisions that contributed to the oil well blowout and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Those findings are in an interim report out this week that was requested by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Fisheries scientists, like Aaron Adams, director of operations with Florida's Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, say the report is a good step as Salazar strengthens oversight of offshore drilling. He hopes the government's next move is to conduct similar science-based studies of the Gulf's fisheries to help safeguard them for the future.
"We know so little about the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico, that if we put an oil rig, or do deep sea mining, or anything else, we don't know if we put that in a particular location if it's gonna severely impact part of that $140 billion fishery."
Adams hopes the oil spill continues to motivate government agencies like the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service to collaborate on a plan to assess and manage Gulf resources. He says as it stands right now there are big gaps in available data.
"There is no comprehensive map of habitat available in the Gulf of Mexico. In other words, we don't even know what's available for the fish to live and reproduce in the Gulf."
He notes it is common for companies to roll as much as 20 percent of profits into research and development to stay viable, but nowhere near that kind of investment is being put in to Gulf research.
Adams is particularly interested in continuing impacts from the spill on the tarpon fishery and their migration range between Louisiana and Florida.
"A lot of the oil and the dispersant remains in the system, and since tarpon live up to eighty years, those effects may take a while to occur, but they're also going to be long-term."
He adds there's little data available on tarpon, despite their cultural importance and estimated $6 billion value as a fishery.
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