A Strategy for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico: Resilience Through Ecosystem Restoration

Cover - A Strategy for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico: Resilience Through Ecosystem Restoration

The Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) is vital to our Nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary beaches and recreational activities, and a rich cultural heritage. Even before the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill of 2010, the health and function of the Gulf ecosystems and economies have suffered from decades of significant human and natural stressors. The Gulf has experienced chronic loss of critical wetland habitats, erosion of barrier islands, imperiled fisheries, water quality degradation, impacts from invasive species, and substantial coastal land loss due to natural forces, the alteration of hydrology, and impacts from other human activities. In addition, the Gulf Coast region has endured repeated natural catastrophes, including major hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a responsibility, driven by the agency's stewardship mandates, to help ensure the nation, including the Gulf, has a strong foundation of resilient ecosystems that sustain thriving marine and coastal resources, communities, and economies.

This document identifies general priorities and actions where NOAA seeks to use its collective mandates, science, management and policy expertise to collaborate with our state, federal, academic, industry and NGO partners (regional and national) to help restore the Gulf ecosystem and economy and extend our commitment to a Gulf-wide, ecosystem-scale approach to recovery and restoration. The goal and objectives outlined here cannot be achieved by NOAA alone, but rather will require a robust collaborative effort with our partners to implement an aggressive coordinated science-based approach to restore the impaired Gulf ecosystem and to protect it from further degradation.

To realize a healthy, functional ecosystem that sustains resilient and thriving marine and coastal resources, communities and economies in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA will pursue the following four objectives.

  1. Support science to inform decision-making and investments,
  2. Improve coastal community resilience,
  3. Restore and conserve key habitats, and
  4. Restore and sustain living coastal and marine resources.

Because of the size and magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and the relative dearth of information available on many of the impacted living coastal and marine resources, advancing scientific knowledge of these resources and their interactions should be considered as a critical component of restoration actions and associated research. NOAA is committed to including this component in the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program as well as its own ongoing scientific work in the Gulf.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2015). A Strategy for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico: Resilience Through Ecosystem Restoration. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 10 p