[Coral-List] BP Oil Spill Response

Quenton Dokken qdokken at gulfmex.org
Mon May 10 11:41:37 EDT 2010

History has shown that in a spill event there are several distinct arenas of activity:

1) Field response - minimize impact.
2) Investigation of cause; how did this happen?  This is a question for the engineers and investigators to address.
3) The media event.  Is there really objectivity in this area?  Don't forget we are a nation that has kept the Jerry Springer show on the air for a long time.  Is the media really qualified to assess cause and impact?  Is the media reporting fact or are they helping to create the news?  On Dauphin Island, AL I observed a major network news crew that had strategically set up for days for a shot of oil covered water, which was nowhere in sight, with a gas production platform very prominently in the background.  Is this reporting news or creating an image?
4) The legal event.  Is the lead up to the court room really objective?  One would hope that by the time it gets to the court room there is scientific data to support the arguments being made.  And, this includes not only biological/ecological science, but also social and economic science.
5) The political response.  Political careers can be made and lost on such events.  And, party polarization can drive this response.
6) Impact on community business/industries and the citizens of those communities?  Understandably, this is very emotional which makes it great material for the media event.  I've been there and lived that.  All possible efforts should be made to minimize impact on communities and people.    
7) Ecosystem impact.  The media, politicians, personal injury lawyers and scientific community can speculate 24 hours/day, but the extent of impact is speculation until the impact is measured and the hypothesis is tested.  Certainly impact happens and is happening.  What is it's level and significance? How long will it take the system to recover?  What is the threat and ultimately what will be the actual impact on public health and economic well being? In a post by Wes Tunnell yesterday the response to the IXTOC I spill was described.  Regarding benthic infauna on the beach, measurements were taken before the impact, during the impact, and after the impact. Results were analyzed and reported -  applied scientific methodology at work.

24 hours after the event in an interview with the New York Times I was asked whether or not this spill is the end of the Gulf of Mexico as a healthy body of water.  Headlines were already proclaiming a disaster of unprecedented scope.  I responded that based on the history of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent ecological responses this is not the end of the Gulf as a productive body of water - "the sky is not falling."  I also advised the reporter that a more appropriate comparison would be the IXTOC I spill of 1979 rather than the Exxon Valdez spill.  I also noted that relative to other Gulf spills, this one is not yet the biggest nor has the actual impact been documented by science.  Regarding culpability and accountability I have stated that the technology to respond to such events in deep water must advance at the same rate as the technology to drill in deep water - I think that industry dropped the ball here - opinion only.  Check out my comments on the GMF website www.gulfmex.org .

For some reason my comment, "the sky is not falling" has offended some on the NOAA coral-list.  I have always thought that the NOAA coral-list was a forum primarily for scientists to pursue discussion of science, maybe I am wrong.  There have been some excellent posts initiating discussion about how the impact and the response will ultimately impact the northern Gulf.  What is the chemical behavior of the spilled product and dispersants being used at 5,000, sub-freezing temperatures, and no photic activity?  What is the toxicity? What is happening to the spilled product as it ascends from the point of origin to the surface?  What is the response of the biological community? I assume that leading research institutions, both academic and agency based are pursuing answers to these questions and more.  I certainly hope that they are. 

>From my perspective takes a creative imagination to see bias in advocating for science which is the only true bias I've demonstrated.


Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Inc.
PMB 51 5403 Everhart Rd.
Corpus Christi, TX 78411

Office:  3833 South Staples Suite S214
                Corpus Christi, TX 78411

361-882-3939 o
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361-442-6064 c


-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve Mussman
Sent: Sunday, May 09, 2010 4:29 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] BP Oil Spill Response

  There appears to be some indication that Coral-List is being exploited 
by special interests wanting to take proactive measures to placate
those they fear may become their antagonists on issues related to
the consequences of the oil spill. 
  I haven’t read any post here that could be considered “alarmist”,
but anyone following events closely would be amiss to summarily downplay
the inherent implications. 
  Will this disaster (or is the use of this term too strong?
perhaps undesirable event would sound more prudent) prove to be
unprecedented in it’s impact on our marine ecosystems? We don’t know as yet,
but it is certainly understandable that concerns are mounting.
  At this point there may be no need to assume that coral reefs,
fisheries and entire communities will cease to exist as a result of this
catastrophe, but at the same time it would be equally unwise to sit back
and allow oil industry affiliates to frame the conversation. 

  Steve Mussman
  Sea Lab 
Coral-List mailing list
Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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