Ocean Conservationists Sail Into Palafox Pier
World Renowned Ocean Conservationists Sail Into Palafox Pier
By: Kelly Woodard
The Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, Odyssey, is working hard to conserve our waters one study at a time. Now you can get on board and get up close and personal with the ship and her crew as they sail into Palafox Pier this Friday, June 20th through the 23rd.
Marine researchers Ocean Alliance is partnering with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine whale activist group / Animal Planet featured in “Whale Wars”, on a fifth Operation Toxic Gulf research project.
The project is studying the impacts of the BP oil spill and dispersants used to dilute the oil on Gulf of Mexico whales and other marine mammals.
For many, the 2010 Gulf disaster is merely a distant memory. For the wildlife and residents of the Gulf, the legacy lives on, more often than not in the abyss. Ocean ecosystems are so complex and intertwined that it can sometimes be hard to link events with consequences. However, common sense can give you a good start on that long journey.
When an oil well explosion releases more than 200 million gallons of oil and the slick it creates gets treated with an unprecedented 2-million-plus gallons of dispersants, reason should lead you to conclude that there will be significant consequences. Four years later, tar balls are still washing up on the Gulf’s beaches, and the dolphin pods known and beloved to the local residents and regular stream of tourists are dwindling.
Also declining are the number of whales in the area. There are more than 20 species of resident whales in the Gulf of Mexico and half a dozen that visit the Gulf. Among the visiting species is the blue whale, the largest animal this planet has ever produced.
The voyage of the research vessel Odyssey, a 93-foot, steel-hulled ketch, equipped with a state-of-the-art, cell-culture laboratory, is running June through August, collecting data on the environment as well as the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. With this data, the two organizations expect to have further proof of the extent of the disaster of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, considered the most significant manmade environmental disaster in the history of the United States.
The Sea Shepherd’s Odyssey will be in Pensacola stocking up on supplies before heading out for a two month expedition collecting biological samples from whales and ocean food chains to determine a baseline and routes of exposure to petroleum products, chemical dispersants and metals; developing cell lines to determine impact of oil, chemical dispersants, mixed dispersant and oil, and metals on whale DNA. The campaign will largely focus on Gulf sperm whales and be able to put them in global toxicological context with previous Odyssey expedition data.
The ship will be open to the public while docked at Palafox Pier from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd. Tours are free.
For more information, visit www.whale.org.