FIO and Coast Guard Forge Alliance

The Florida Institute of Oceanography and the 7th Coast Guard District sign an agreement on disaster response.


Coast Guard Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner and FIO Director William Hogarth celebrate the agreement signing. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News



From USF News


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 29, 2012) – The Florida Institute of Oceanography and the U.S. Coast Guard, 7th District have signed a cooperative agreement to better engage the marine science community in disaster response, addressing a concern stemming from the national response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


The memorandum of understanding between FIO, a consortium of public and private marine science institutes throughout Florida, and the 7th Coast Guard District will be signed Friday by Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District and FIO Director William Hogarth at a FIO council meeting at Eckerd College.


The agreement covers both natural and manmade disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic Ocean and is specifically focused on oil and hazardous material spills. The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for overseeing response and clean-up efforts of spills in coastal and deeper waters as well as ports. 


Although the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will still provide the primary scientific coordination and support for response and contingency planning to the Coast Guard, this agreement paves the way for the 7th Coast Guard District and Florida’s marine science community to work together in disaster planning and response.


The agreement provides the Coast Guard with additional data and scientific insight while allowing independent researchers greater access to disaster zones and information as events unfold. Specifically, the groups will cooperate on understanding how a large oil spill might impact Florida’s complex and unique marine ecosystem.


Additionally, FIO and the 7th Coast Guard District will work to ensure that accurate  scientific information on events are made public in a timely manner, with academic scientists retaining their independence in communicating, publishing and disseminating research results.


 “I think this is a great step to implement a lesson learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident. This will improve cooperation and collaboration between the federal agencies and the scientists and researchers throughout the State of Florida,” Hogarth said. “We sincerely appreciate this opportunity.” 


“We learned a lot from academia during our planning efforts related to Cuba offshore drilling and cementing this relationship will further enhance our planning and response efforts for any future incident.  We are very impressed with the passion and depth of knowledge researchers in Florida have regarding impacts of an oil spill. The 7th Coast Guard District already has a trusted partnership with NOAA and we look forward to continuing to enhance our collaborative working relationship with the academic scientific community and putting that knowledge to work for us,” Baumgartner said. 


The agreement addresses concerns raised by the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling following its investigation of the 2010 Gulf spill disaster. The commission found the independent scientific community’s ability to analyze the spill and its impact was hampered with a lack of access to the spill zone. Conversely, the response was hampered by a lack of cutting-edge research.


The commission recommended the Coast Guard provide scientists with timely access so independent research and long-term monitoring can be conducted. FIO and the USCG will hold workshops to address this issue.


The 26-member FIO has served as a leading research entity on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since the disaster. Through its auspices, Florida’s universities, colleges and private marine research entities have spent more than two years tracking, studying and analyzing the impact of the spill throughout the vast Gulf ecosystem. 


The 45-year-old institute is one of three academic infrastructure support organizations approved by the Florida Board of Governors and hosted by the University of South Florida. Its mission is to share and maximize Florida’s marine science assets – including the R/V Weatherbird II, the R/V Bellows and the Keys Marine Research Laboratory.


"Once again, the critical role of the FIO is evidenced in its successful pursuit of thorough coordination among all available expertise and resources. On behalf of the State University System, I express our thanks to the 7th Coast Guard District for sharing resources with scientists and oil spill researchers," said State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.


The complete agreement can be read here.