Greenpeace launches three-month ship expedition to investigate oil disaster impacts to Gulf of Mexico

August 12, 2010

St. Petersburg, FL - Greenpeace today launched a three-month ship expedition to support independent research into the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster on marine life, as well as researching the unique environments and marine life that are at risk. The ship departs from St. Petersburg, Florida tomorrow and will visit the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas before approaching the well-head this month, examining everything from the plankton on the surface to the subsurface plumes, to the deep sea corals on the floor of the Gulf.

“From the very start, the full scope of the Gulf oil disaster has been obscured by BP and even our own government,” said John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director, “The largest accidental oil spill in history and the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants will impact Gulf marine life for years to come, and independent research is critical to ensure that BP is not allowed to hide what they have done or walk away from their responsibilities.”

On the expedition, the MY Arctic Sunrise will host independent scientists who will be researching the impacts of oil and chemical dispersants on Gulf ecosystems and marine life. Charles Messing and Jose Lopez from Nova Southeastern University will be on board looking at sponges as bioindicators; since they filter large quantities of water, they are useful for looking at sublethal impacts of oil and dispersants. Later in August, Tulane University researchers Caz Taylor and Erin Grey will conduct plankton tows in order to assess the status and health of blue crab larvae, while gathering data that will enable researchers to look at impacts on larval bluefin tuna, red snapper, and other species of ecological or economic importance. Additional scientists will join the expedition in September.

“The Gulf of Mexico has been subjected to a massive experiment, and we all deserve to know the full scope of the damage that the oil industry has caused,” said Paul Horsman, marine biologist and oil expert who will also join the expedition. Horsman has responded to oil spills around the world since 1979, and is now the campaign director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action.

The MY Arctic Sunrise is a 50-meter long icebreaker purchased by Greenpeace in 1995. Since then, it has peacefully protested whaling in the Southern Ocean and documented the impacts of climate change at the poles. In 2009 the ship hosted scientists studying Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland, which calved an ice island four times the size of Manhattan in August 2010.

Supporters can follow the Arctic Sunrise throughout the Gulf expedition online at www.greenpeace.org/usa/oilspilltruth. The website features a map that tracks the location and updates from the ship including photos, video, blogs, and Twitter.

Greenpeace is calling for:
An immediate ban on new offshore drilling and exploration of all high-risk unconventional oil sources (including in the Arctic and from tar sands); an end to fossil fuel subsidies and an increase in support for clean energy; and strong laws and policies that limit global warming and stimulate a clean energy revolution.

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Notes: To arrange an interview with Paul Horsman or other scientists and campaigners on board the Arctic Sunrise, contact Molly Dorozenski, Molly Dorozenski, 917-864-3724, molly.dorozenski@greenpeace.org

Paul Horsman is a marine biologist with degrees from Newcastle University and Portsmouth Polytechnic in the UK, and an international campaigner with over 25 years experience at the forefront of campaigning on environmental and peace issues in many countries across the globe – 20 of these years with Greenpeace. Paul’s first oil spill encounter was in 1979 as a marine biologist working in the UK, since then he has responded to oil spills in different parts of the world. He visited Prince William sound, Alaska, 5 years and then 10 years following the Exxon Valdez spill bearing witness to oil still present in the beaches. He has coordinated Greenpeace’s response to other spills. He led the Greenpeace expedition to the Persian Gulf to survey the land and atmospheric impacts of the spills and the oil fires resulting from the 1991 Gulf war. He then led the response to the 1994 oil spills in the Russian Arctic – one of the world’s largest pipeline leaks. As a result he was invited by the World Bank to advise on the best way to deal with the spill. Most recently he coordinated the Greenpeace response to the oil spill on the coast of Lebanon which resulted from the Israeli bombing of oil storage tanks in the brief Lebanon/Israel war in 2006.

He is now the campaign director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action, which brings together a diverse range of local, national and international organizations and social movements in a bold and effective initiative to mobilize civil society and galvanize public opinion to avert catastrophic climate change and support the adaptation efforts of communities most affected by climate change, through national and international policies, corporate commitments and individual actions.

Contacts

Molly Dorozenski, 917-864-3724, molly.dorozenski@greenpeace.org
Joe Smyth, 831-566-5647, joe.smyth@greenpeace.org

For photo and video requests:
Contact Tim Aubry, 202-319-2429, tim.aubry@greenpeace.org

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