‘This was something unprecedented:' IMMS reflects on 10-year BP Oil Spill anniversary

Updated: Apr. 19, 2020 at 6:17 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been 10 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, an event remembered as one of the worst environmental disasters in the world.

“This was something unprecedented,” said Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the rig explosion, Solangi remembers the moment he first heard the news.

“We got a call from the federal agencies to be ready that a major disaster had taken place," he said.

The team at IMMS faced the devastation of Coastal wildlife after what remains the biggest oil spill in U.S. waters. Solangi said his team became first responders to thousands of marine animals that were killed or injured because of the pollution.

“We ended up with about 100 volunteers, and we had about 11 or 12 specialists that were here. Veterinarians and biologists," he said. "We were the only entity in Mississippi that specialized in aquatic animals, especially dolphins and turtles.”

For example, Solangi noted that more than 300 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in Mississippi during the oil spill. Now 10 years later, IMMS rehabilitated more than 1,000 of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the most endangered turtle species in the world. Experts believed Coastal marine life was on a steady path toward progress until 2019 when IMMS noticed a spike in marine mammal deaths after the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway.

“All the good work that was done from 2010 to 2019 went down the drain," Solangi said. "The ecosystem pretty much collapsed last year.”

He believes the challenge will be getting a handle on Mississippi River’s discharge.

“I’m very hopeful that because our economy depends on it, our fishing industry, our tourism industry, that the state of Mississippi would have a voice in the way the Mississippi River is managed.”

The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill lasted for 81 days, sending more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

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