The nation’s worst environmental disaster has stepped up funding for research in the Gulf of Mexico, but historically the region has been underfunded, a group of scientists told the Sun Herald this week.
“Most of the money goes to the Northeast, the Northwest, the Chesapeake Bay, Boulder (for weather), kind of like that,” said Mike Carron, director of the Northern Gulf Institute. The northern and southern regions of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts traditionally get the lion’s share of federal research money, scientists with the Sun Herald Science Roundtable said.
“If you don’t spend money to study it before, you don’t know what’s taking place now,” Carron said. “But there’s a lot going on in the Gulf of Mexico, billions of dollars worth of seafood industry, the oil industry. It’s really important. I think that’s going to change now … All of a sudden we’re on the radar screen for more funding in the future.”
The results of less money over the years is smaller research ships, fewer programs for tagging and tracking large fish and less baseline data on birds, whether they’re just spending the winter in the Gulf, or nesting and migrating.
Carron pointed out that of the 19 cooperative institutes in the United States that NOAA funds, only one is in the Gulf, from Texas to the tip of Florida.
On Tuesday, however, BP announced that the one, the Northern Gulf Institute, will receive $10 million to establish a foundation for subsequent research.
“It is vitally important that research start immediately into the oil and dispersant’s impact, and that the findings are shared fully and openly,” BP chief executive Tony Hayward said upon issuing the grant. “We support the independence of these institutions and projects, and hope that the funding will have a significant positive effect on scientists’ understanding of the impact of the spill.”