Office of Response and Restoration
Deepwater Horizon Incident Natural Resource Damage Assessment
Dark brown oil in marsh seen during an overflight on May 18.
In response to the Deepwater Horizion incident, NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program continues to coordinate data collection efforts with natural resource trustees in five states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas), the Department of Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management), and BP (the Responsible Party). Multiple agencies from each state are engaged.
The trustees are collecting pre-assessment information on potential impacts to fish, shellfish, marine mammals, turtles, birds and other sensitive resources as well as their habitats, including wetlands, beaches, mudflats, bottom sediments, corals, and the water column. The trustees are also assessing any lost human uses of these resources, for example, fishing, hunting, and beach recreational closures. Pre-oiling (baseline) and oiled environmental conditions are being documented for water, sediment, various habitats and biota, from Texas to the Florida Keys.
Currently, over three dozen teams are active in the field on a daily basis conducting surveys and collecting samples. Highlights of some of these activities include:
- More than 20 offshore research cruises have been conducted or are currently underway to characterize surface and sub-surface oil and baseline and impacted biological communities.
- Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) teams are working daily in the near-shore coastal waters to document the presence of surface and sub-surface oil and to collect oil samples for fingerprinting to confirm the origin of the oil. Multiple shoreline and SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) assessment teams are conducting initial injury assessment studies at more than 50 shoreline sites a day to collect ephemeral data on the degree and extent of habitat oiling.
- More than 1,200 linear miles of shoreline have been surveyed and nearly 8,300 NRDA samples have been collected to date.
- Marine mammal and turtle overflights have been conducted since the first days of the spill to establish baseline populations and more recently to document the presence of marine mammals and turtles in impacted areas as well as to locate stranded animals.
- Teams of natural resource economists have deployed throughout the Gulf Coast to quantify the lost human uses due to the spill. They are conducting beach overflights and counts, as well as boat ramp intercept surveys in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida that will be used to calculate human use losses such as lost beach days and boat and shoreline fishing trips.