Restoring the Gulf

A Timeline of The Events

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in 2010, the Gulf of Mexico has been on a long road to recovery. Where are we now? What milestones have we reached? And what successes have we seen in restoring the Gulf so far?
Note: The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

The Timeline

April 20, 2010 © USCG

Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes

Fifty miles off the Louisiana coast, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes, killing 11 people and spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Two days later, the burning rig sinks 5,000 feet to the bottom of the ocean.

May 2010 © Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

Gulf Restoration Program established

Ocean Conservancy jumps into action, establishing our Gulf Restoration Program with a team of our experts from the Gulf Coast, as well as scientists who worked on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, to begin working with Gulf leaders to respond to the disaster.

May 2010 © Cheryl Gerber

Oil plumes found in Gulf

Scientists onboard the R/V Pelican, a Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium research vessel, find enormous plumes of oil under the surface of the ocean. Oxygen levels near some of the plumes dropped 30 percent, putting ocean wildlife at high risk.

June 2010

Live video of blown-out oil well

The world sees the first shocking underwater video from the Macondo oil well, which is gushing an estimated 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf every day.

June 2010 © Pete Souza

Pres. Obama visits Gulf Coast

President Barack Obama talks with local fishermen about recovery efforts along the Gulf coastline in Venice, La. He calls for a national commitment to restore the Gulf not just from the BP oil disaster but past environmental issues.

June 2010 © Kris Krüg

Philippe Cousteau dives in oil

Philippe Cousteau, Ocean Conservancy Board member, dives into the Gulf to show an unfolding “nightmare” under the waves to millions of Americans.

June 2010 © Claudia Friess / Ocean Conservancy

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is formed

BP commits $500 million over 10 years to support research to understand the fate, distribution and impact of oil and gas on the Gulf ecosystem and communities.

June 2010 © Dan Anderson / EPA

Oil reaches Florida

Oil from Deepwater Horizon has travelled over 100 miles to Pensacola Beach, a tourism hotspot.

June 2010 © Robert Brazell

Wildlife are rescued

Efforts to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife continues. Here brown pelicans are released on an unoiled beach in Texas.

June 2010 © Sara Thomas / Ocean Conservancy

Coastal communities hit hard

Shrimp landings are down as much as 60 percent in some states. The total loss of public recreational activities such as boating, fishing and beach-going is estimated at nearly $700 million.

July 2010 © USCG

Oil well finally capped

After 87 days and many failed attempts, BP finally caps the blown-out oil well.

August 2010 © Nasa

Worst environmental disaster in U.S. history

An estimated 210 million gallons of oil and 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants are now in the open ocean and polluting coasts along the Gulf of Mexico.

December 2010 © Rachel Guillory / Ocean Conservancy

Litigation begins

A federal lawsuit begins that will ultimately hold BP and other responsible parties accountable for the disaster. The litigation will last nearly 5 years.

April 2011 © FWC

1 year later

BP agrees to a $1 billion down payment towards “early restoration.” This will jump-start the process of restoring the Gulf before a full damage assessment can be completed.

July 2011

Oil Spill Commission releases investigation report

“A culture of complacency.” The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling releases their investigation of the disaster and important recommendations for oil drilling safety reforms.

November 2011

Framework for restoring the Gulf

“If we act with wisdom and courage, we have the opportunity to chart a new future.” Ocean Conservancy releases a framework for restoring the Gulf, including lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

June 2012 © Lawrence Jackson

Congress passes the RESTORE Act

The RESTORE Act will send 80 percent of BP’s Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf’s environment and economy. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council forms to create a comprehensive restoration plan.

December 2012 © NPS

Sea turtle restoration begins

Deepwater Horizon Trustees, state and federal leaders who are charged with restoring oiled wildlife and habitats, announce the first early restoration projects. The restoration plan includes sea turtles, thanks to more than 30,000 Ocean Conservancy advocates who spoke up for sea turtle conservation.

June 2013

Ocean Conservancy creates Gulf atlas

As planning for restoration projects get underway, Ocean Conservancy publishes a comprehensive Gulf atlas to serve as an important decision-making tool.

December 2013 © Mandy Tumlin / LDWF

Dolphins are struggling

New findings on the impacts of the oil disaster on marine wildlife are not good. Dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay are sick and dying.

August 2014

Restoring the Gulf beyond the shore

Ocean Conservancy releases Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore, outlining how we can restore the Gulf’s marine life and habitats.

April 2015

5 years later

Ocean Conservancy works with Gulf Coast residents to share our hope for the place we call home in Postcards from the Gulf.

June 2015 © Whitepointer / Thinkstock

Restoration begins for bluefin tuna

Deepwater Horizon Trustees announces the first early restoration project to restore one of the Gulf’s most vulnerable fish, bluefin tuna. Nearly 50,000 Ocean Conservancy supporters spoke up in support of the bluefin tuna project, which was featured in Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore.

July 2015 © Rachel Guillory / Ocean Conservancy

BP agrees to settlement

BP finally agrees to pay a $20 billion settlement over 15 years. More than $1 billion is earmarked to restore the Gulf’s offshore marine life and $700 million for adaptive management and unknown conditions.

October 2015

Damage assessment released

Deepwater Horizon Trustees release a Draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. Ocean Conservancy and National Wildlife Federation summarize the key findings on what we now know about the impacts from Deepwater Horizon.

February 2016

Charting the Gulf

With limited BP funds available for monitoring the Gulf, Ocean Conservancy outlines how decision-makers should monitor what matters most with Charting the Gulf: Analyzing the Gaps in Long-Term Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico.

April 2016 Cheryl Gerber

Well Control Regulations

The Obama administration passes well control and safety regulations to reduce the risk of an offshore oil or gas blowout that could result in the loss of life, serious injuries or substantial harm to the environment.

December 2016

Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf

Thanks to over 13,000 of Ocean Conservancy advocates, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council updates its Comprehensive Plan and includes steps toward coordination and inclusion of science.

March 2017

Trustees call for open ocean project ideas

Deepwater Horizon Trustees call for project ideas to restore the Gulf’s open ocean. Ocean Conservancy has a few: Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore – Part II.

January 2018 © Claudia Friess / Ocean Conservancy

Monitoring manual released

The Deepwater Horizon Trustees release the Monitoring and Adaptive Management Manual. This will guide and coordinate monitoring across all restoration projects. It is a critical tool to help measure and report on how restoration is making an impact on the Gulf ecosystem.

May 2019 Chad Teer

Roll-backs on Safety Regulations

The Trump administration rolls back some of the Obama-era safety regulations for offshore drilling that were meant to prevent a repeat of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

May 2019 @ NOAA

Open Ocean Plan

Deepwater Horizon Trustees released the world’s first ever plan to restore the ocean with proposed projects to restore the Gulf’s sea turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and the deep sea. The Trustees have invited the public to submit comments and suggestions. Join us and tell the Open Ocean Trustees you support efforts to protect marine wildlife and the deep waters of the Gulf.

September 2019 Dan Anderson / EPA

Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act

Legislation that would permanently extend the current moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico passes the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support. The bill also includes a provision that would codify the Obama administration’s well control rule.

December 2019 Pixabay

Open Ocean Restoration Plan is Approved

The Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group provides $226 million in restoration dollars to 18 projects aimed to help restore fish, sea turtles, marine mammals and deep benthic communities.

January 2020 U.S. Army

Offshore Accountability Act

The House of Representatives introduces legislation to require operators of offshore oil and gas facilities to report failures of critical systems to the Secretary of Interior and for other purposes.

April 2020 Rafeed Hussain

BP Deepwater Horizon 10th Anniversary

10 years after the tragedy, an opportunity to take stock of achievements, reflect on lessons learned and call for better protections for our ocean.


Final payment scheduled

BP will make its final payment of the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon settlement.

2045 © Andres Abogabir

A healthy future for the Gulf

Our vision? A future where the Gulf of Mexico is healthy and thriving.

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