Open Ocean Trustees Release Plan for At-Sea Surveys of Gulf Seabirds and Marine Mammals

A NOAA ship conducts a surveys at sea. (Photo: NOAA)

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted marine mammals and seabirds across their geographic range throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Because these species use a wide range of geographic areas, current information about their abundance and distribution is critical to help us target restoration projects and evaluate project results.  

To help provide this information, the Open Ocean Trustees developed the monitoring and adaptive management activity, Vessel Surveys for Abundance and Distribution of Marine Mammals and Seabirds (PDF, 20 pages). This activity is estimated to cost approximately $2.34 million over three years. 

Surveys will be conducted in the summers of 2023 and in 2024 to collect information on the distribution and abundance of seabirds and oceanic marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. During the surveys, scientists will collect data on the diversity and number of animals observed along the routes. They will also collect information about habitat features, such as the presence of floating seaweed patches like Sargassum, prey species such as flying fish, and environmental information such as sea surface temperature and salinity. Data will contribute to models that help us understand how environmental variability can influence the distribution of marine species.  

The surveys continue work by the Open Ocean Trustees to address critical data gaps through targeted monitoring and adaptive management activities.  

More information about this activity and additional Open Ocean projects and monitoring activities can be found at the Open Ocean Restoration Area webpage.