Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FT.com / Companies / Oil & Gas - Exxon chief says BP lost time

FT.com / Companies / Oil & Gas - Exxon chief says BP lost time: "Exxon chief says BP lost time"

GO to the LINK to View the Video!

Exxon chief says BP lost time
By FT reporters

Published: April 19 2011 21:10 | Last updated: April 19 2011 21:10

BP lost valuable time at the height of its devastating accident in the Gulf of Mexico last year pursuing solutions to contain the oil spill that were never going to succeed, the chief executive of ExxonMobil has claimed.

In a sharp criticism of the handling of the disaster, Rex Tillerson said Exxon’s engineers knew that one of BP’s initial efforts to stem the oil flowing from the ruptured Macondo well – by building a containment dome – “wasn’t going to work”.

Silent minute to mark year of change at BP - Apr-19.BP clean-up costs to soar, say experts - Apr-19.Graphic: how the BP spill happened - Apr-19.Video: BP one year on - Apr-19.California steps out on bold green venture - Apr-18.Testing times await disaster response units - Apr-17..“We knew they were going to form hydrates [a type of ice], which they did,” he told the Financial Times on the eve of the first anniversary of the accident which killed 11 workers and led to the worst offshore oil spill in US waters. There was, he added, “a significant loss of time while they pursued that option and while that was going on, the integrity of the well itself was deteriorating daily”.

He said: “So I think there was some time lost pursuing some alternatives that most of us felt that in the end were not going to be successful – and with the loss of time the challenges just got greater.”

Exxon, he said, had learnt over the years that in crisis situations like the Gulf accident, companies needed to act quickly and aggressively “because these situations only get worse with time”.

Mr Tillerson has formerly criticised BP about its assessment that there are industry-wide lessons to be drawn from the Deepwater Horizon accident – but his remarks about the handling of the crisis are the most specific to date.

BP responded: “We made all efforts to contain the well and worked closely with industry, US federal agencies and regulators on proposals to respond to the incident at the time. Our response drew on all of those.”

Mr Tillerson said he would be concerned if the public or regulators were to be told that “this industry was operating on the edge of its capabilities as we moved into ever-deeper water”. He added: “[That] flies in the face of 14,000 wells that were drilled without this happening.”

A year after the accident, only 10 fresh drilling permits have been issued in the gulf. “We are not back to business as usual. I can’t really see the end,” Mr Tillerson said.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Seashore wants to set record straight about oil on beaches | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com

This our Friend: "Citizens for a Clean Coast" HE IS DOING A GREAT JOB KEEPING UP ThE PRESSURE.

Seashore wants to set record straight about oil on beaches | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com: "Seashore wants to set record straight about oil on beaches"

Dan Brown, superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore, received an email this week from Citizens for a Clean Coast implying the Seashore is misleading the public about how much oil is still on the beaches of Fort Pickens and Perdido Key.

Brown wants the public to know the Seashore has never claimed to have cleaned up all the BP oil.

"There’s still is subsurface oil out there,” he said. “And in some places wind has exposed it.”

Citizens for a Clean Coast maintains a blog that is compiling stories and news about the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill from contributors. Some of the information is excerpts from news stories. Contributors post updated photos of tar balls and mats they find on area beaches, including those in the Seashore.

The Seashore has been very open about the fact that submerged oil will continue to be uncovered and tar balls will continue to wash up, Brown said.

And that’s because deeply buried oil was only mechanically removed in the recreational portions of the Seashore, and this only came after much debate with National Park Service scientists, he said.

They recommend no mechanical cleanup of submerged oil on beaches at all because of concerns about damaging the ecosystem. The Park Service position was to let the oil naturally biodegrade, Brown said. That process could take decades, he said.

None of the non-recreational stretches of beaches have been deep cleaned below 6 inches, Brown said. “We had recommended no further cleaning to allow waves and wind to expose the areas so it would be easier to clean up and not have as much impact on the marine life in the sand,” he said.

Fort McRae, at the mouth of Pensacola Pass, on the tip of Johnson Beach, is the most oiled area. And it’s an area for which the Seashore is receiving the bulk of complaints.

Cleanup at that area and all along the Seashore beaches stopped on March 1 because of bird nesting season and likely won’t resume until after Aug. 15, at the end of nesting season, Brown said.

Small numbers of BP cleanup crews and Seashore rangers do monitor the beaches and clean up tar balls along the surf line on a regularly basis.

Under some circumstances the Seashore may cleanup larger tar mats that become exposed, only if birds and their chicks are not in the area.

BP searching for underwater tar mats near Northwest Florida beaches | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com


BP searching for underwater tar mats near Northwest Florida beaches | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com: "BP searching for underwater tar mats near Northwest Florida beaches"

PNJ.COM/BEACHES: What's new at Pensacola Beach this year? Visit our beaches page for tons of information on where to eat, where to party, where to shop and where to play at the beach this summer.
BP has completed a tactical plan for locating and removing underwater tar mats near Northwest Florida shores, and specialized equipment is being moved in to begin the process.

Several Escambia County officials traveled to New Orleans last week to meet with BP representatives, cleanup contractors and Coast Guard officials.

During the meeting, BP officials said acoustic instruments will be used to search for offshore tar mats in areas where tar balls are still washing ashore.

Once tar mats are located, they will be recovered using dredging, vacuuming and excavation techniques, as well as other methods, officials said.

The full BP report outlining the plan should be released to county officials this week.

County officials said the plan was a step in the right direction, but they made clear that they wanted a complete survey of local shorelines, not just targeted searches near areas of known oil.

“We are happy with the commencement of this operation but still feel the scope may be too narrow,” Escambia County Director of Community Environment Keith Wilkins said.

Deadline approaching for those wishing to sue Transocean over Deepwater Horizon disaster | al.com

Deadline approaching for those wishing to sue Transocean over Deepwater Horizon disaster | al.com: "Deadline approaching for those wishing to sue Transocean over Deepwater Horizon disaster"

MOBILE, Ala. -- People have less than a week to get involved in a lawsuit against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, in connection with last year’s oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, based in New Orleans, set an April 20 deadline for plaintiffs to sign up for a February 2012 trial of the Transocean case.

The trial is part of the multi-district litigation blaming Transocean, BP PLC and several others for last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill. More than 40,000 individuals and businesses have signed up as plaintiffs so far, according to Stephen Herman, one of the lawyers on the plaintiffs steering committee.

The 2010 spill poured an estimated 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, savaging the tourism and fishing seasons in a wide coastal region.

Transocean is trying to invoke a maritime law that would limit its liability to $27 million.

But according to a document released by Barbier’s court, the trial might also determine much larger issues, such as how fault could be divided amongst defendants and whether any defendant is liable for gross negligence, which could form the basis of a punitive damage award.

If people do not sign up for the trial, they risk losing the benefit of any ruling made against the drilling rig giant, said Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

People who miss the deadline can still pursue a lawsuit against BP PLC or other parties linked to the spill, she said.

"It’s all about preserving rights," Herman said. "The only way you risk anything at all is by not filing by the deadline."

Anyone who believes they suffered damage from the oil spill can join the lawsuit by filling out a form and mailing it to the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, postmarked by April 20.

For more information about the form, or a copy to fill out, go online to www.laed.uscourts.gov/OilSpill/OilSpill.htm. People can also call 1-877-497-5926 or consult with a lawyer.

The form should be mailed to: Clerk of Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, 500 Poydras St., New Orleans, LA 70130.

Gulf oil spill: Environmental official more optimistic as anniversary approaches | al.com

Gulf oil spill: Environmental official more optimistic as anniversary approaches | al.com: "Gulf oil spill: Environmental official more optimistic as anniversary approaches"

GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Almost a year after mobilizing to deal with the biggest oil spill in history, environmental officials looked out over a Baldwin County beach where tourists sunbathed on white sand and pelicans soared overhead.

The worst predictions about the effects of the spill did not happen, Bob Haddad, chief of the Assessment and Restoration Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said standing on the beach of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Officials will be working for a long time, however, to determine what the long-term impact of that Deepwater Horizon spill will be, he said.

"Twelve months ago, I was ramping up to try to put natural resource damage teams across almost 2,000 miles of coastline," Haddad said. "This has been the largest accidental oil spill in the world, not just in our history. Sure, I was pretty pessimistic 12 months ago. In some cases I’m less pessimistic now, more optimistic. I think the shoreline issues now as we work through those we are going to find what those injuries look like."

Haddad and other environmental officials toured the refuge as part of several days of inspections of sites hit by the spill.

During the spill, birds, mammals and marshes were coated in oil. What was not so obvious was the effects that cannot be seen right away, Haddad said.

30,000 turtle eggs moved

At the wildlife refuge in Gulf Shores, 30,000 sea turtle eggs were moved to Atlantic coast beaches. No one will know for years if those turtles will return to Alabama when the time comes to lay their eggs or if a generation of animals will be lost. The effect of the oil on the predators at the top of the food chain also might not be clear for decades.

Haddad said NOAA officials are preparing a report on the environmental impact of the spill to be used by the federal government to seek compensation. He said he did not know when the Natural Resource Damage Assessment would be ready.

"We need to make sure we understand the totality of the injuries before we settle and let anybody off the hook, whether it’s BP or any of the other responsible parties," he said.

Haddad said some data gathered as part of the assessment has not been released to the public because the information could be used in civil or criminal court cases.

Jereme Phillips, manager of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, said officials have been working in the last year to protect and clean the refuge, which includes about five miles of undeveloped beaches.

Berms were built after the April 20 spill to protect the dune system and areas such as Little Lagoon.

Work continues to clean the beaches, but officials are also trying to be sure that the cleaning efforts do not disturb sensitive areas. He said cleaning equipment is not allowed at the edge of the surf line, an area known as the wrack, where birds often feed and small fish and other animals congregate.

Now, they are waiting to see how the wildlife, such as the sea turtles, responds this year. In about a month, the turtles will return to lay eggs on the sand. He said 20 to 30 nests are built on the refuge beaches in an average year.

Auburn University beach study could be ready by end of month in Baldwin County | al.com

Auburn University beach study could be ready by end of month in Baldwin County | al.com: "Auburn University beach study could be ready by end of month in Baldwin County"

ORANGE BEACH, Alabama -- An Auburn University report on the cleanliness of the city’s beaches could be ready by the end of the month.

Joel Hayworth, an engineering professor with the university, told the City Council on Tuesday that he would start the first of six beach sample collections this week.

Hayworth is working with fellow engineering professor Prabhakar Clement on scientifically proving whether the beaches were thoroughly cleaned after the BP oil spill.

They were hired by the city in February for about $100,000 to analyze the sand after the oil giant spent months on a deep-clean process, removing tar buried as deep as 3 feet below the surface.

In Orange Beach, Mayor Tony Kennon sent crews to the sand with augers to determine whether anything was left behind. Kennon has said that little tar was located, but workers marked spots where it was found.

The city approved the Auburn study after Hayworth suggested a more scientific approach.

The professors had initially hoped to reveal some preliminary findings by the anniversary of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, but Hayworth said they had run into delays.

They spent the past two months on preparation work and getting the OK to collect samples from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, an area impacted by the oil spill where BP was asked not to perform a deep beach clean in order to protect sensitive habitat.

Hayworth said the Bon Secour samples would be collected to compare differences in the sand.

The professors plan to continue analyzing their data well after they submit their report to the city, by publishing findings in scientific journals and seeking grants to continue studying the ecosystem of the beaches.

“We anticipate this is going to be a long, drawn-out thing into the future,” Hayworth said.

“All of this is about trying to make sure that our friends don’t leave town without really addressing this all the way.”

The two also completed a review of dispersant analysis collected by the city, but Hayworth said he was not prepared to release the findings because their report was not final. He expected that to be released at the end of this month, as well.

The city spent months collecting air, water and sediment samples to test for oil and dispersants, reaching out to scientists at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, along with universities around the state, to help analyze what was found.

Officials have said that areas such as Cotton Bayou are free of dispersant.

In other business Tuesday, the council agreed to spend much of its $4 million in excess revenue from 2010 on The Wharf Conference Center, now known as the Orange Beach Civic Center.

The majority will go toward the $1.6 million purchase, upon which the council agreed last month, with an additional $500,000 of excess revenue spent on capital upgrades and another $300,000 reserved for additional parking at the facility.

Gulf Seafood Deemed Safe But Still Under Scrutiny : NPR


Gulf Seafood Deemed Safe But Still Under Scrutiny : NPR: "Gulf Seafood Deemed Safe But Still Under Scrutiny"

April 14, 2011 The Gulf of Mexico is known for its bounty — blue crab, shrimp, grouper, tuna, oysters — but ever since oil tainted a portion of the Gulf's fishing grounds, the seafood has been a tough sell.

Even though much of the oil that spilled from last April's Deepwater Horizon rig explosion has been cleaned up, the future is still murky for people who make a living plying Gulf waters.

Mike Voisin is a seventh-generation Louisiana oysterman.

"Once it was capped, everybody brought out that proverbial sigh of relief, like 'Whew, we're through this thing.' Well we weren't, and we still aren't," Voisin says.

Voisin is president of Motivatit Seafoods, an oyster processing company in Houma, La. His workers are shucking oysters mostly from Texas these days.

The Biggest Challenge

Before the spill, Louisiana produced half of the oysters sold from the Gulf. Voisin's business was down 60 percent after the spill, and it has been slow to recover. The state's fisheries are projected to lose $74 million this year from the lingering impact of the oil spill.

NOAA technician Chanda Gaines pulls a sample from a tripletail caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The lab puts Gulf seafood through a series of sensory and chemical tests for contamination from the BP oil spill.

NOAA technician Chanda Gaines pulls a sample from a tripletail caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The lab puts Gulf seafood through a series of sensory and chemical tests for contamination from the BP oil spill.
"People are hesitant to buy Gulf shrimp or Gulf product coming out of this oil area," says Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham.

Most oyster grounds are open again. But they're not producing nearly what they did before, in part because of damage caused by flushing freshwater out of the Mississippi River to hold the oil at bay.

But Voisin says the main problem is that customers are afraid.

"The brand for the seafood community is the biggest challenge that we're faced with," he says.

A recent survey of restaurants around the country conducted by Greater New Orleans Inc. shows just how bad the perception is. The economic development group's president, Michael Hecht, says twice as many people now ask about the origin of seafood.

"The implication of course is they're asking about whether it's from the Gulf or whether it's Louisiana seafood," Hecht says.

He says 50 percent of people surveyed nationally now have an unfavorable view of Louisiana seafood. That's a huge swing from a 73 percent favorable view before the spill.

They plan to fight back with a national ad campaign paid for with BP money.

The state of Alabama is already doing that with a new Serve the Gulf campaign.

Seafood samples are placed in Pyrex dishes to await sensory analysis. Inspectors will sniff for the slightest whiff of oil. Samples are also cooked for a taste test to detect any problems.

Seafood samples are placed in Pyrex dishes to await sensory analysis. Inspectors will sniff for the slightest whiff of oil. Samples are also cooked for a taste test to detect any problems.
Seafood Testing

The federal government is also trying to get the word out.

"Test results have been unequivocal. Gulf seafood is safe to eat," says Eric Schwaab, head of fisheries at NOAA.

At the agency's lab in Pascagoula, Miss., sensory analysts spend their days bending over Pyrex dishes and smelling the fish inside for the slightest whiff of oil.

Then they'll have a taste. Seafood samples are also chemically analyzed for hydrocarbons and the dispersant BP sprayed on the oil slick. NOAA's Walt Dickhoff says they've analyzed more than 5,000 samples and all have passed at margins 100 to 1,000 times below levels of concern.

"This is the most tested seafood in history. I'm completely confident it's safe, it's not contaminated," Dickhoff says.

But others aren't so convinced.

"I'm not eating the seafood, and I really think there are questions about its safety," says Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental group that helps citizens collect their own samples.

She says their testing has found oil and heavy metals in Gulf seafood at levels the FDA says are not of concern. Rolfes says she has a different definition of tainted.

"It shouldn't be considered normal to have the presence of oil in your shrimp and to have heavy metals in your oyster. What I fear is that we're creating this new normal where you have oil in your seafood and nobody blinks an eye," she says.

Oyster processor Voisin says restoring trust will take time. It took several years to recover from Hurricane Katrina, he says, and he expects to overcome this man-made disaster, too.

"We're not shy about portraying who we are. And in five years, we've been knocked down a few times. But we're getting back up. We're comin'," he says.

Florida Flirts With Deadline To Join Oil Spill Lawsuit : NPR

Florida Flirts With Deadline To Join Oil Spill Lawsuit : NPR: "Florida Flirts With Deadline To Join Oil Spill Lawsuit"

Eric Thayer/Getty Images
Workers clean oil leftover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last month at Perdido Key State Park in Pensacola, Fla. The state has until April 20 to decide whether to join a lawsuit to recoup economic damages.
text size A A A April 14, 2011 from WUSF The one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill is April 20; that's also the deadline to join a massive lawsuit to recoup economic damages from the companies involved.

It may seem simple: You get wronged, you sue. But when you up the stakes to include the oiled shoreline of four states and economic damages to thousands of fishermen, hotel operators and restaurateurs, the political waters can get muddied.

Related NPR Stories
Gulf Seafood Deemed Safe But Still Under Scrutiny

April 14, 2011
Gulf Oil Spill: Complete Coverage

April 14, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn't making the situation any clearer. He talks tough about getting the state's fair share of the damages: "We will continue to hold BP accountable to Floridians, and the Floridians and the businesses who lost millions of dollars because of the oil spill."

But he's balking at joining a consolidated lawsuit against Transocean, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded last April, killing 11 workers and setting off a massive spill that took months to contain.

As for BP, which leased the rig, Scott says he'd rather negotiate than litigate. Earlier this week, he celebrated a pledge of $30 million from BP to promote tourism in Florida's Panhandle.

Steve Yerrid, who served as special counsel on the oil spill to Scott's predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, has another description of that money: "chump change."

Yerrid has tried to contact Scott with his findings three times. Three times, he got no response. He says the governor owes it to Florida taxpayers to get all the money he can.

"I know that we had a viable claim," Yerrid says. "We can argue over the money — OK, if it wasn't $2 billion, it was a billion; if it wasn't a billion, it was $500 million. It was a hell of a lot of money."

A Pro-Business Governor?

Scott was elected on a pro-business platform. And that, says University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus, is coloring his strategy.

"He's reticent to sue — he pursues every other avenue possible," she says. "And I think that this is consistent with his business philosophy."

Louisiana and Alabama aren't hesitating. Those states have joined the lawsuit against Transocean, which is likely to include finger-pointing at who's responsible — BP, Transocean, or oil services company Halliburton.

Alabama's top officials, Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange, even recorded a PSA encouraging people in that state to join the lawsuit.

Yerrid says Scott has less than a week to make his decision, or the state may be left out of that settlement.

"This governor has run up on a deadline, which they can minimize, they can ignore or they can utilize," he says. "The problem is, it is a deadline, and I hope we don't end up being dead wrong."

A spokesman for Scott says the state may still sue BP, but they want to keep their options open.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guy Fieri to host 500-seat dinner on beach in Gulf Shores | al.com

Guy Fieri to host 500-seat dinner on beach in Gulf Shores | al.com: "Guy Fieri to host 500-seat dinner on beach in Gulf Shores"

GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri is hosting a 500-seat dinner on the beach in Gulf Shores this weekend to mark the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that sent 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism spent $100,000 of BP grant money putting together “Supper on the Sand: A Celebration of the Gulf.”

It’s an invitation-only event that Kim Chapman, spokeswoman for the tourism group, said officials hoped would “showcase safe seafood and safe, wonderful beaches,” while thanking community leaders who helped the area recover from the disaster.

The dinner starts at 4 p.m. at Gulf State Park Pavilion, where a menu of Gulf seafood will be cooked and served on a 175-yard-long table.

Along with Fieri, host of NBC’s “Minute to Win It” and the Food Network’s “Guy’s Big Bite” and “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” the event features local chefs Lucy Buffett, owner of Lulu’s at Homeport Marina, and Pete Blohme, owner of Panini Pete’s in Fairhope.

Students from the Faulkner State Community College Culinary Institute also will help with the meal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

YouTube - Cat and Dolphins playing together

YouTube - Cat and Dolphins playing together: "Cat and Dolphins playing together"

A friend sent this to me off of Youtube, I don't know where or when it took place?

Some of the comments allude to Australia but all of the voices sound very American.

This is what's up with the GULF!! I hope we can see more HAPPY Postings like this in the Month's ahead!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Surfrider Foungation is sponsoring Beach Oil Testing this weekend - Baldwin County NOW - A Gulf Coast Information Source for South Alabama

Surfrider Foundation is sponsoring Volunteer oil testing on Florida beaches this weekend. The Testing is to take place in South Walton County and Pensacola Beach.

Surfrider Foundation would like to invite any and all volunteers from the surrounding area's to assist in this second phase of testing our area Water and Beaches for oil along Gulf since last year’s oil spill.

The second phase consists of digging three trenches along beaches on April 10 in Pensacola and South Walton County and taking core samples of the sand to submit for results, according to the nonprofit group’s news release.

“Based on our initial results we are seeing heavy settling of oil in our beaches that are not being cleaned up but rather just grinded into place,” the news release stated.

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to protection of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, according to the release.

For more information, visit the group’s website at http://www.surfrideremeraldcoast.org/ or contact Mike Sturdivant at 850-225-1747 or emeraldcoast@surfrider.org.

Monday, April 4, 2011

BP ends deep-cleaning operation; mayor relieved, activist skeptical | al.com

BP ends deep-cleaning operation; mayor relieved, activist skeptical al.com: "BP ends deep-cleaning operation; mayor relieved, activist skeptical"

Originally Published by The Mobile Press Register

MOBILE, Ala. -- BP PLC officials said Friday that they have moved all their deep beach-cleaning equipment and personnel from Alabama’s shoreline in time for the tourist season.
BP workers will continue to monitor the beaches and will keep equipment staged nearby to clean any oil or tar balls that wash ashore, company officials said in a news release.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said the shift brings with it a sense of relief.
“It’s time to get back to normal and get BP out of our hair,” Kennon said. “It’s time for us to get back to doing what we do well, and that’s entertain our guests.”
Kennon said the sand in Orange Beach is as clean as it ever has been, and good weather over the past month has helped draw large crowds.
Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said the beaches the public can access on the island are clean. But the west beach, on the other side of the Katrina Cut project, is only about 35 percent clean. BP had to leave it alone because of bird nesting season, but will finish the deep clean there in the fall, Collier said.
Clean enough?
A mid-February federal report indicated that in most areas across the four states most affected by the spill, cleanup operations had already removed as much oil as was practical from shorelines. The report argued that in some cases, further cleaning would do more harm than good from an environmental perspective.
But Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile BayKeeper, said she doesn’t understand how BP can say it’s done with deep cleaning.
She said that she visited the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge last week. The beach looked beautiful from far away, she said, but when she got close to the water, she saw small tar balls everywhere.
“I want this to be over more than anybody,” she said, “but the oil is not gone. We’re going to have tar balls every day, probably for the rest of our lives.”
BP spokesman Justin Saia said the level of personnel and equipment staged for the beach monitoring will fluctuate depending on need. The company said in a written statement that at the peak of its deep-cleaning operation, it had more than 1,300 workers and 370 pieces of heavy equipment on Alabama’s shoreline.
Collier said he just wants the workers to be on the beach early.
“We need them out there at sun-up to take look at beaches, clean up anything they find and get off the beach before the public gets there,” Collier said.

Friday, April 1, 2011

USGS Release: 2,000 Year-old Deep-sea Black Corals call Gulf of Mexico Home (3/30/2011 3:19:44 PM)

USGS Release: 2,000 Year-old Deep-sea Black Corals call Gulf of Mexico Home (3/30/2011 3:19:44 PM): "2,000 Year-old Deep-sea Black Corals call Gulf of Mexico Home"

Originally Published by the USGS March 30, 2011 (see link above)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — For the first time, scientists have been able to validate the age of deep-sea black corals in the Gulf of Mexico.  They found the Gulf is home to 2,000 year-old deep-sea black corals, many of which are only a few feet tall.
These slow-growing, long-living animals thrive in very deep waters—300 meters (984 feet) and deeper—yet scientists say they are sensitive to what is happening in the surface ocean as well as on the sea floor.
“The fact that the animals live continuously for thousands of years amazes me,” said Dr. Nancy Prouty of the U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, who analyzed the coral samples that were collected by the USGS and colleagues as part of several ongoing deep-sea coral ecosystem studies between 2003 and 2009. “Despite living at 300 meters and deeper, these animals are sensitive to what is going on in the surface ocean because they are feeding on organic matter that rapidly sinks to the sea floor. Since longevity is a key factor for population maintenance, recovery from a disturbance to these ecosystems, natural or manmade, may take decades to centuries.”
Reliably age dating the corals, as done in the recent study, is a critical step in using them as natural archives of environmental change.
Like shallow-water coral reefs, deep-sea coral-reef ecosystems are among the most diverse and productive communities on Earth, providing shelter and feeding grounds for commercial and non-commercial fish species and their prey, as well as breeding and nursery areas. Activities that affect both the seafloor and the surface ocean, such as certain methods of petroleum exploration and commercial fishing, can impact these ecosystems.
“We used a manned submersible, the Johnson-Sea-Link, to go to the sea floor and specifically collect certain samples using the sub's manipulator arms,” said Prouty. “Deep-sea black corals are a perfect example of ecosystems linked between the surface and the deep ocean. They can potentially record this link in their skeleton for hundreds to thousands of years.”
The skeletons that these animals secrete continuously over hundreds to thousands of years offer an unprecedented window into past environmental conditions. Age dating used in combination with emerging technologies, such as sampling skeletal material with a laser to determine its chemical composition, enables scientists to reconstruct environmental conditions in time slices smaller than a decade over the last 1,000 to 2,000 years.
Black corals grow in tree- or bush-like forms. Scientists confirmed that black corals are the slowest growing deep-sea corals. They grow 8 to 22 micrometers per year as compared to the shallow-water reef-building coral, typically found in tropical areas like Hawai‘i, which grows about 1 mm per year, or 65 times as fast as black coral. Human fingernails grow about 3 mm per year, or 200 times faster than black coral.
Because black corals get their food from sinking organic matter instead of from symbiotic algae, like their shallow-water counterparts, they need skeletons that are flexible but strong enough to withstand currents that transport food to the colonies. In addition to a constant flow of water bringing them food and oxygen, the corals require a stable substrate, such as volcanic or calcareous rock, or even a shipwreck or oil rig that can serve as a platform for the corals to settle on and build their skeletons.
Black corals can capture and record in their skeletons the history of changing concentrations of carbon in surface waters and the atmosphere. Unlike the skeletons of most shallow-water corals, which consist of calcium carbonate, black coral skeletons are composed mainly of organic matter: successive layers of protein and chitin (a long molecule containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) glued together by a cement layer. These skeletons are very similar to insect cuticles in that they are quite flexible and can thus bend in water currents.
“The flexibility and shiny luster of black coral have made it a precious commodity in the coral jewelry trade and international trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” noted Prouty. “In fact, black corals have been harvested for centuries to create charms; the scientific name of the order to which black corals belong, ‘Antipatharia,’ comes from Greek roots meaning ‘against suffering.’”
Like trees, black corals exhibit radial growth, with the oldest skeletal material found in the center and successfully younger material building out toward the edge. Viewed in a horizontal cross section, the black coral’s growth bands resemble tree rings.
USGS scientists and their colleagues, for example, are measuring trace metals and stable isotopes in the black coral skeleton that are related to nutrient supply in surface waters, which in turn may reflect the amount of runoff from nearby land surfaces. With a proper understanding of how these chemical constituents vary over time, scientists can reconstruct a record of environmental changes, such as changes in land-based sources of nutrients and natural variations in climate.
The recent study was part of the USGS Diversity, Systematics, and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems (DiSCOVRE) Expedition, in which USGS scientists are partnering with other federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as several academic institutions, to study deep-sea coral reefs. A full copy of the study can be found online in the Feb. 10, 2011, edition of “Marine Ecology Progress Series.”
An upcoming DiSCOVRE expedition scheduled for summer 2011 will include mapping the sea floor and studying underwater canyons off the coasts of Maryland and Delaware. More information about the deep-sea cruises can be found on the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center website.