I recently provided opening remarks for and participated in a panel discussion following a screening of the documentary "Dispatches from the Gulf 2: Research * Innovation * Discovery" at the Terrace Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina. The film, a sequel to "Dispatches from the Gulf 1: Science * Community * Recovery," explores the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history — through the eyes of a cadre of scientists working together to better understand and mitigate its fall-out. The film recently won the International Ocean Film Festival Environment Award, and NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Service are prominently featured in the documentary
After the screening, I provided opening remarks for a panel discussion with Cynthia Smith of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, Eric Zolman of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, and South Carolina Congressman Joe Cunningham. I was inspired by the stories my co-panelists shared, and heartened by the lessons learned from this devastating event.
The film screening and following discussion brought back so many memories for me. Eleven men lost their lives in the explosion that caused the spill, and millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico. As soon as I heard the news, like many people at NOAA and in communities across the Gulf, I was determined to assist in the response effort.
I shared how the spill was especially shocking to me, as the Texas Gulf Coast is my home. I went on to describe how NOAA was on the scene from the earliest moments of the spill, and that hundreds of NOAA staff from across the U.S. provided support for months on end, and still do to this day. As a team we focused on the task at hand, relying on NOAA’s 25 years of experience protecting and restoring our coasts from oil spills.
NOAA’s primary role in spill response is providing the science that supports decision-making. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, our scientists used data from satellites, aircraft, ships, buoys, and gliders to collect and provide mission-critical information to guide the emergency response, assess damages to natural resources following the oil spill, and develop and implement a plan to restore injured resources.
The tremendous team effort that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill required is just one example of the vital work provided by people throughout NOAA.