Though Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 has come to a close and the R/V Odyssey has returned to port, the work to defend the fragile and recovering Gulf of Mexico is just beginning.
This summer, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society teamed up with Ocean Alliance for the second consecutive year to research the long-term environmental impact in the Gulf following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the use of toxic chemicals that dispersed oil throughout the waters and food chain. Ocean Alliance has spent five years researching the Gulf ecosystem and the many species that call it home, and Sea Shepherd is proud to have made the continuation of this important work possible for the last two years.
The findings from the years of research will now be used to not only determine the current health and balance of the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem, but also to determine ways to help the Gulf recover.
While research during Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 was wide-ranging, sperm whales were the primary focus of the campaign studies, as these apex predators are bio-indicators of the condition of the entire food chain. Benign research included biopsies, in which tiny samples of skin were taken and will be used to look for the presence of toxicants in the whales. A total of 63 biopsies were completed!
This testing does not pose harm the whales - and not only will it help to determine their health and that of other marine species in the Gulf, but it also shows that effective, non-lethal research on whales is possible.
As they journeyed through the Gulf, Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance were greeted by many of the marine species they were there to protect, including pantropical spotted dolphins and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. They were even lucky enough to see a Bryde’s whale – with a population estimated at only 30 in the entire Gulf of Mexico!
A total of seven crew docked the RV Odyssey at the close of the final leg of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, but many crewmembers took part over the course of this campaign. Sea Shepherd would like to thank everyone who joined Ocean Alliance and us in this groundbreaking effort to protect whales and their Gulf of Mexico home. The crew also received tremendous support from the Gulf community and received donations and supplies from locals when docked in Pensacola, as well as from our amazing supporters elsewhere who donated online. Thank you to everyone who has supported this critical campaign! Of course, thank you to Ocean Alliance for their tireless efforts to protect this struggling ecosystem alongside Sea Shepherd.
To read more about the important work completed during Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, as well as photos and videos from the campaign, please visit our Operation Toxic Gulf site.
Operation Toxic Gulf
site for more information.