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Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project Receives Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 09/08/2009
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) will receive a second place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Partnership Category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

During the 2005 hurricane season, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted severe damage on the Gulf of Mexico coastal region and deposited huge amounts of debris over large areas of the Gulf nearshore waters. This submerged marine debris posed a persistent hazard to commercial navigation, fishing activities, recreational boating, and living marine resources. In an effort to address marine debris impacts on the Gulf Coast, Congress tasked NOAA Office of Coast Survey (OCS) and Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) in July 2006 to conduct survey and mapping of nearshore waters impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to facilitate debris removal. Survey work began in August 2006 in Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana and by the end of Phase I (December 2007), 735 square nautical miles had been surveyed with over 5,000 submerged potential debris items identified. This information was entered into a database, mapped, and posted on the project website to advise fishers and boaters of the submerged objects, and assist with US Coast Guard (USCG)-led marine debris removal activities. In 2008 and 2009, Phase II of the project focused exclusively on Louisiana. Integrating lessons learned from Phase I of the project, NOAA staff maintained a consistent field presence to coordinate with the USCG, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to survey Louisiana nearshore waters, map the side scan sonar targets, and post them on the project website. Over 600 square nautical miles have been surveyed in Phase II and 1,250 targets have been found and mapped.

"The Gulf Guardian Awards recognize the positive efforts to protect the important natural resources the Gulf of Mexico holds. The Gulf provides critical habitat for wildlife, recreation and commerce for humans, protection for inland communities, and so much more," said Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield of U.S. EPA Region 6. "By preserving this vital resource, this year's winners are gaining benefits for all Americans."

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator of EPA Region 4 said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a priceless treasure. As a unique habitat, a place which gives pleasure to countless Americans, and a source of some of our most valuable resources, it has no equal. These Gulf Guardians who labor to protect and enhance this magnificent sea deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2009, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.


Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo.