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A sea turtle hatchling on its trek across the sand to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
Information icon A sea turtle hatchling makes its way across the sand to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Becky Skiba, USFWS.

The journey to restore the Gulf of Mexico

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and caught fire, killing 11 people and releasing 3.19 million barrels (134 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill lasted more than 87 days and caused widespread and severe injury to the Gulf’s natural resources and the services they provide. It was by far the largest offshore oil spill in the history of the United States.

With funds from the Deepwater Horizon legal settlements, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working with the Gulf states, other federal agencies and many other organizations and people to restore natural resources injured by the oil spill. The many needs we are addressing include preserving and restoring degraded wildlife habitat, eroding shorelines, and damaged wetlands as well as protecting nesting sea turtles and birds. We are also providing new or repairing recreational facilities on our national wildlife refuges and at our national parks that were compromised during the spill.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. Take a look at these videos highlighting our efforts to restore the priceless Gulf of Mexico. We hope you enjoy them and invite you to join us on our journey to restore the Gulf of Mexico.

A grayish blue bird with a long curvy neck extends from the vegetation on the bank of a stream.
Restoring the Gulf of Mexico from the injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster is an astoundingly complex undertaking. But it is said a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Photo by USFWS.

Until just recently, unless you had fins or owned your own boat, there was only one way to reach Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida from the nearby city of Pensacola. You had to drive eight miles over bridges, a straightforward but often unpleasant trip due to the terrible traffic during peak visitor seasons.

Now you can get there easily by sea. Using settlement funds meant to compensate for the loss of recreational opportunities during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and subsequent cleanup, the National Park Service has purchased two new 150-passenger double-decker catamaran ferryboats. Named Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch by local school children, the ferries have started shuttling visitors between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and the Fort Pickens Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Video by Nicole Vidal, USFWS.

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