Today marks the tenth year since the Deepwater Horizon disaster—the most massive accidental offshore oil spill ever to occur. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) marked this somber milestone by recounting the events and highlighting the various restoration efforts that have occurred since.
According to an article from NOAA, the spill initiated due to an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform. The initial explosion killed 11 workers on the rig and injured 17 more. NOAA states that 134 million gallons of oil (3.19 million barrels) seeped into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, reaching the deepest waters of the region as well as the coastline. This staggering amount of oil stretched more than 5,000 feet up through the water column and touched more than 1,300 miles of shoreline across five states.
The oil impacted the entire Gulf ecosystem and the communities that depend on the natural resources of the Gulf for income. The Gulf Spill Restoration website estimates that hundreds of fish species were exposed to oil, including bluefin tuna. Additionally, trillions fish and invertebrate larvae perished, impacting multiple future generations. The website also reports that up to 84,500 birds of at least 93 species died, and an additional 17,900 chicks died as a result of the loss of their parents. Up to 7,600 large juvenile and adult sea turtles and up to 166,000 small juveniles were killed by the spill.
With the help of more than $20 billion in environmental damage settlements, NOAA has and continues to lead the restoration efforts. The three main goals of the restoration efforts are: restoring the Gulf’s coastal habitats and resources; restoring marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and deep-sea coral habitat; and advancing science to fill data gaps or promote progress toward recovery.
The video below highlights the immediate and long-term methods used to assess the damage caused by the spill. Lisa Dipinto, Senior Scientist at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, details the scope and science of the recovery effort, which NOAA considers the most extensive restoration effort across the history of the Gulf.
Although an incredible amount of progress has been made towards restoring the Gulf, NOAA believes that it will take decades for recovery. Current federal and state trustee agencies will continue their efforts through 2031, but work is expected to continue long after. According to a statement from the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, “restoration does not happen overnight, but through careful design, successful implementation, and robust monitoring, we are confident that the wetlands, coastal, and nearshore habitats, water quality, living coastal and marine resources, and recreational use will be restored.”