The Campaign will Document the Long-Term Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Toxic Oil Dispersants on Gulf of Mexico Whales, Other Ocean Life

Operation Toxic GulfMarine conservation organizations, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance set sail today on Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, a joint campaign to research and document the devastating and lasting impacts of the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill on ocean life and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.

In this collaborative campaign, Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance are sending an international crew to the Gulf region this summer to study and document the chronic effects of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Among the crew will be Ocean Alliance Founder and world-renowned scientist, Dr. Roger Payne. Although they employ different approaches, both of these organizations 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.”

Campaign research will focus primarily on Sperm whales; as apex predators, these endangered whales will serve as bio-indicators of the health and balance of not only the Gulf, but the entire food chain. The non-lethal research will involve taking samples of whale mucous, whale waste and other specimens to measure petroleum products, dispersants, metals, DNA damage and other data. Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd are well suited to conduct this important research, working together aboard the RV Odyssey, Ocean Alliance’s 93-foot sailboat uniquely outfitted to track, sample and study whales. In addition to whales, species at risk in the Gulf include dolphins, pelicans, sea turtles, manatees and fish.

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.”

"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,” said Dr. Roger Payne, Founder and President, Ocean Alliance. 

Added Sea Shepherd USA Administrative Director, Susan Hartland: “Sea Shepherd is proud to work with Ocean Alliance on this important campaign. Together, we bring decades of experience in direct action conservation and scientific research desperately needed in the Gulf. Though 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.”

In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, releasing more than 200 million gallons of crude oil 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. Immediately following the oil spill, Sea Shepherd launched Operation Gulf Rescue, conducting and supporting efforts to rescue marine life and mitigate the effects of the oil spill on Gulf ecosystems. Ocean Alliance began collecting samples and data in this region shortly after the oil spill was contained in 2010, and has been researching the far-reaching and deadly impacts of the oil and dispersants ever since. Sea Shepherd joined forces with Ocean Alliance for Operation Toxic Gulf last summer in order to help continue this vital research.

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