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New Survey To Study Marine Life In Deep Waters

Ian Kennedy
Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Sea turtles are just one of the many animals the new survey aims to catalogue.

Several federal agencies are teaming up to do a multi-year survey of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. The goal is to better understand how oil and gas activities impact marine species, and it’s huge in scope.


If you want to know how oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico impacts water creatures -- or how to minimize those impacts -- you have to know as much as you can about them.


“So what we’re trying to do is figure out who is there, and when,” says environmental scientist Rebecca Green. She’s leading the survey and works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management -- or BOEM. They’re the federal agency that regulates oil and gas activity offshore.


To complete this aquatic census, they’ve teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Fish and Wildlife, and the US Geological Survey. That same group of agencies launched similar survey off the Atlantic Coast a few years ago. But this is a first for the Gulf of Mexico.


Green says it’s unique for two reasons -- what they’re studying and where they’re looking.


Most studies tend to focus on one particular species. But in this study they’re looking at all kinds -- from dolphins to sea turtles to birds.


Other studies also usually happen closer to shore. It’s cheaper and easier that way because you don’t have to travel far.


Green says we know a lot about Gulf sea turtles on the beach, for example, but when it comes to how they spend their time offshore she says “we have very little information.”


So for this survey, they’re going into deep water -- up to two hundred miles beyond the state boundaries -- to better understand how species like sea turtles react when their environment changes.


Green says the survey will take about three years to complete.


The Coastal Desk is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, the Coypu Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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