In the years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, it has become apparent that the ocean ecosystem can undergo profound changes and such changes may hinder a return to pre-spill conditions. The 1994 Restoration Plan (Plan) recognized that recovery from the spill would likely take decades. A Restoration Reserve was created from the Plan in part to provide for long-term observation of injured resources and services and for appropriate restoration actions into the future. To further this effort, in 1999 the Council also supported the development of a long-term research and monitoring program.
Long-term monitoring after a spill has two components: monitoring the recovery of resources from the initial injury and monitoring how factors other than oil may inhibit full recovery or adversely impact recovered resources. This second type of monitoring collects data on physical and biological environmental factors that drive ecosystem-level changes. The information that is produced from such monitoring may be used to manage individual injured species and resources. However, such data are increasingly valuable in illuminating the larger ecosystem shifts that impact and influence a broad variety of species and resources injured by the spill.
An integrated monitoring program requires information on environmental drivers and pelagic and benthic components of the marine ecosystem. Additionally, while extensive monitoring data has been collected thus far through Council-funded projects, as well as from other sources, and made publicly available, much of that information needs to be assessed holistically to understand the range of factors affecting individual species and the ecosystem as a whole. Interdisciplinary syntheses of historical and ongoing monitoring data are needed to answer remaining questions about the recovery of injured resources and impacts of ecosystem change.
In 2012, through an invitational process, the Council selected a multi-disciplinary team headed by the Alaska Ocean Observing System, Prince William Sound Science Center, and NOAA to begin work on a five-year integrated long-term monitoring system.
Team Lead Contact Information
Alaska Ocean Observing System
1007 West 3rd Ave., Suite 100
Anchorage, AK 99501
NOAA Kasitsna Bay Laboratory
2181 Kachemak Dr.
Homer, AK 99603
Prince William Sound Science Center
Cordova, AK 99574
Program Web Page
The Long-Term Monitoring Program/GulfWatch Alaska is administrated with a five-year contract through NOAA. Under this contract, the Trustee Council reviews annual proposal requests for the next year's funding.
Annual Reports are submitted on March 1 of each year.
The annual work plan contains funding recommendations and the amount of funding requested for each year of the program. They also contain a list of the individual projects that are part of each fiscal year of the program. See the Work Plans.