In its role as NOAA’s direct connection to state Coastal Zone and National Estuarine Research Reserves programs, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) is helping states prepare for potential impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Weeks Bay Reserve is one of five National Estuarine Research Reserves located on the Gulf of Mexico. The Weeks Bay Reserve encompasses more than 6,000 acres of tidal and forested wetlands within the greater Mobile Bay estuarine system along the northern Gulf.
Estuaries are crucial spawning areas for many commercial and recreational fish and shellfish, and they buffer upland areas from flooding and shoreline erosion. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 28 estuarine areas established across the nation for long-term stewardship, research, and education.
Effects of oil in estuaries could be especially damaging. OCRM Estuarine Reserves Division staff are in close contact with the five Gulf Coast NERRs in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas, to help them prepare for the oil’s possible landfall. Their assistance includes serving as a clearinghouse to match existing expertise with specific needs at the affected reserves. In addition, the NERRS have collected a wealth of long-term environmental data that are being used to support planning and modeling related to the spill.
Staff at Gulf Coast NERRs have been collecting water and sediment samples to establish baseline measurements of contaminants, should oil reach their bays and wetlands. Some reserve staff also are being trained to handle hazardous materials, so they can help with cleanup and continue to sample water and sediments if oil reaches the shore.
Coastal Zone Managers
OCRM administers the National Coastal Zone Management Program, a voluntary federal-state partnership that protects, restores, and responsibly develops our nation’s diverse coastal communities and resources. Through its role of giving technical and financial assistance to state coastal management programs to achieve national and state program goals, OCRM maintains a close working relationship with state coastal managers.
Following the Deepwater BP incident, coastal zone management specialists in OCRM’s Coastal Programs Division have been in regular contact with those managers, to give them NOAA and federal updates, information, and contacts. OCRM staff are also helping coastal managers prepare for the possibility of the oil reaching their coastal waters and shores.
Marine Protected Areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the U.S. come in a variety of forms and are established and managed by all levels of government. The National MPA Center, located in OCRM, helps facilitate the use of science, technology, training, and information in planning, managing, and evaluating the national system of marine protected areas.
The MPA Center has created the map, "U.S. MPAs in Proximity of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," to show the boundaries of U.S. MPAs that could be affected by the oil. The map also includes other data, such as management agencies involved and conservation focus of the different MPAs.
Excerpt from the "U.S. MPAs in Proximity of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill" map. Visit the MPA Center Web site to download a pdf of the map.