Horizon Oil Spill
Location: 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta
On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on BP’s Deepwater Horizon off-shore
drilling rig killed 11 men. The rig sank and left the oil well leaking tens of
thousands of barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. In what has become
the worst oil spill in U.S. history, hundreds of species and their habitats
along the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and
Florida--as well as human uses of these resources--may have been affected.
Scientists from NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program
(DARRP) mobilized quickly in the Gulf. In coordination with federal and state
agencies and the responsible parties, the NOAA team collected data from
pre-oiled and oiled natural resources. This information is critical to the
natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process.
Data collected in the Gulf will help determine what natural resources have been
injured and what human uses have been lost. Once the injuries and losses are
known, we will work with our partners to compensate the public by restoring,
rehabilitating, or replacing the natural resources lost or injured by the oil
Work by federal and state partners under the
Oil Pollution Act is currently in the preassessment phase to determine
whether injury to or lost use of public resources has occurred.
Natural Resources of Concern in the Gulf of Mexico
Fish and Invertebrates
Species with essential fish habitat near the oil spill include: scalloped
hammerhead, shortfin mako, silky, whale, bigeye thresher, longfin mako, and
oceanic whitetip sharks; swordfish, white marlin, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna,
bluefin tuna, longbill spearfish, and sailfish.
Other important fish in the Gulf include red snapper, grouper, gray
triggerfish, red drum, vermilion snapper, greater amberjack, black drum, cobia
and dolphin (mahi-mahi), coastal migratory pelagic (open water) species, such
as king and Spanish mackerel, and pelagic sharks.
Shellfish in the Gulf include oysters and several species of shrimp and crabs.
Of the 28 species of marine mammals known to live in the Gulf of Mexico, all
are protected and six (sperm, sei, fin, blue, humpback and North Atlantic right
whales) are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
At least four species of threatened/endangered sea turtles (Kemp’s ridley,
green, leatherback, and loggerhead) are residents of the northern Gulf of
Mexico and are represented by all life stages. A fifth species, the hawksbill
turtle, can be found in the southern Gulf.
The only nesting beaches in the world for Kemp’s ridley turtles are in the
western Gulf of Mexico.
Marshes in the Gulf of Mexico provide extremely important habitat for feeding
and nesting of several species that can be found in offshore waters, such royal
terns and gulls.
Species of concern include nearshore and marsh birds: brown pelican, diving
ducks, wading birds, piping plover (a threatened species) and pelagic (open
water) birds such as shearwaters, northern gannets, and frigate birds.
Marine mammals, fish, and birds depend on clean, healthy habitats to provide
food, shelter, and breeding grounds. These habitats include salt and fresh
water marshes, mangroves, mudflats, beaches, coral and shellfish reefs, water
column and bottom sediments.