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After the Gulf: What Did We Learn?

Aquatic Forum

January 27, 2011

To create the report, the Aquarium brought together policy-makers, U.S. Coast Guard members involved in the Gulf cleanup, and experts in offshore oil and gas, risk analysis, renewable energy, environmental impacts, and other specialties

The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific released a report this Thursday regarding the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. In October the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Research Institute conducted a forum called After The Gulf: What Did We Learn?. The forum brought together experts in offshore oil and gas, risk analysis and risk management, economics, renewable energy, shipping, vehicular transportation, environmental impacts, communication strategies, systems science, maritime law, and the Ocean Pollution Act; policy-makers; members of the U.S. Coast Guard who had spent months in the Gulf involved in the clean-up, and a representative of the State Lands Commission, which has authority over California’s offshore oil and gas industry.

“The discussions were spirited and by the end participants reached a strong consensus on a number of key findings and recommendations,” said Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president & CEO. “Among the most important are that the Deepwater Horizon blowout was preventable, that the probability of such an event occurring in Southern California is very low, that governmental oversight in the Gulf of Mexico could benefit from studying the California model, and that there is an urgency in moving off fossil fuels as rapidly as possible.” There was unanimous agreement that developing cultures of safety that pervade the offshore oil and gas companies at all levels and that align incentives with safety actions is the single most important strategy in preventing low-probability, high-impact accidents.

On the first day the forum focused on preventing another such event from occurring, and if and when it does, responding more efficiently and effectively. “We chose to focus on prevention and response rather than environmental effects because numerous meetings are focusing on assessing environmental impacts and relatively few on prevention,” said Schubel.

The second day focused on what our world might look like if we continue to rely so heavily on fossil fuels, and if we do, what role the ocean will play in production. This was followed by an exploration of strategies to accelerate the movement toward renewable forms of energy. Special attention was placed on the transportation and the electric utility sectors—two of the largest consumers of fossil fuels.

The full forum report and an executive summary can be found here. The results are being used as input to other studies of the Gulf disaster. In addition to hosting this forum, the Aquarium presented a $5,000 donation to the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) for its work in the Gulf. The IBRRC was the lead organization tasked by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to conduct the wildlife clean-up operations.