Environmental vulnerability and risk assessment of the marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to oil spills

Luz Erandi Saldaña-Ruiz1, Paula Perez-Brunius2,3, Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki4, Zurisaday Ramírez-Mendoza1, Arturo Fajardo-Yamamoto1, María Concepción García-Aguilar1, Mario Rafael Ramírez-León1, Alfonsina Eugenia Romo-Curiel1, Konstantinos Kotzakoulakis2, Javier Rodriguez Outerelo3, Josefina Olascoaga5, Francisco J Beron-Vera6, Philippe Miron6, Julien Jouanno7 and Julio Sheinbaum2, (1)Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, Department of Biological Oceanography, Ensenada, BJ, Mexico, (2)CICESE, Physical Oceanography, Ensenada, BJ, Mexico, (3)Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, Physical Oceanography, Ensenada, BJ, Mexico, (4)CICESE, Biological Oceanography, Ensenada, BJ, Mexico, (5)University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL, United States, (6)University of Miami, Miami, FL, United States, (7)Observatory Midi-Pyrenees, Toulouse, France
The Mexican region of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea (GMC) has an extensive heterogeneity of habitats that support high biodiversity, providing high ecological and socio-economic value, including one of the most significant oil productions in the world. These factors raise a growing concern on the preparedness and response to potentially devastating consequences due to chronic discharges, accidents during the transportation of petroleum, and large-scale oil spills. Given the possibility of oil exploration in deep waters of the GMC in the short term; an oil risk and vulnerability assessment are presented to support contingency and emergency action planning. We developed a detailed region-specific environmental vulnerability model for the GMC. This model is based on habitat types, potential oil impacts on the shoreline and offshore habitats, and key species (Seabirds, Marine mammals, Sea turtles, Fishes, and Invertebrates). To evaluate this vulnerability, we applied an impact scoring system to oil spills using several data sources (scientific and grey literature), geographic information system analyses, and the environmental sensitivity index constructed by NOAA. We built an overall oil spill risk model incorporating the environmental vulnerability (habitat and species vulnerability combined) results with simulated oil spill scenarios at six potential future oil exploration points provided by the Secretary of Energy (SENER) and the Mexican oil industry (PEMEX). We elaborated oil spill-risk maps at 11 geographic regions in the GMC. The levels of oil spill risk of each region at each of the six points of oil spill scenarios are presented. These results can enhance emergency response operations by official agents and decision-makers; and have a significant impact on coastal planning, including emergency response priorities and resources allocation.