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Water-Related News

Post-BP map of Gulf Of Mexico fisheries prepares for future disasters

A study seven years in the making by University of South Florida researchers has created a map of how many species live in the Gulf of Mexico. This will give experts an idea of how much damage would take place from a future oil spill.

The study took so long to complete because 12 separate expeditions were needed to cover the entire Gulf, including the waters off Mexico and Cuba. USF biologist and professor Steve Murawski said this information will be priceless.

"One of the criticisms of the Deepwater Horizon episode is before the spill, we had no environmental baseline for many of the things that are of interest and importance, and understanding the environment," he said, "and now we have that baseline."

Surprisingly, Murawski said researchers didn't see a significant dropoff in the numbers of fish around the oil spill site, except for red snapper and hake.

"Different areas of the Gulf are going to be more or less resilient, based on how many species they have," Murawski said. "What the state of fisheries management is -- that is, are we protecting the larger, older animals -- so that's been a big lesson for us."

He said knowing what's out there will allow fisheries managers to look at making those areas more resilient in the future to any possible oil spills.