NSU and FIU collaborate to create response for potential Cuban oil spill

In early February, NSU and Florida International University researchers presented a response plan in the event of an oil spill off the coast of Cuba to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee.

Richard Dodge, dean of NSU’s Oceanographic Center, said Cuba’s drilling close to the Gulfstream, gives a high probability of a spill reaching the U.S., and possibly, Florida.

“We are hopeful that U.S. response and related agencies find the will and the resources to address this very serious issue of the threat of an oil spill in Cuban waters,” said Dodge. “The U.S. is ill-prepared for a spill from this location. There are important differences in how the spill would behave compared to that from the Deepwater Horizon spill [BP oil spill].”

The response plan includes recommendations to use oceanographic 3-D high resolution current models to transport spilled oil and to implement an oil spill early-warning monitoring system using acoustic, geophysical, satellite and other relevant methods.

Michael Heithaus, executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society, said devising a long term plan for dealing with potential oil spills in Cuban waters and other locations in the Caribbean requires the kind of close collaboration like the one between FIU and NSU.

“Hopefully, [collaboration, research and strategy] will result in quicker action. There is a real need to be implementing programs now. If we wait until something happens, it will be too late,” said Heithaus.

John Prodi, executive director of the Applied Research Center at FIU, said partnerships like the one formed between NSU and FIU are fundamental in devising solutions to local, state and national issues.

“Florida institutions have in-depth expertise, local knowledge and data to be most effective in our unique oceanic and coastal environments, and that federal agencies need to provide funding and true government collaboration so that the nation is better prepared and protected,” said Prodi.

Dodge said if the effort is funded, NSU will seek to partner with other organizations.

“I think it is very good indeed for both FIU and NSU to have a collaboration that is mutually rewarding and beneficial,” he said. “Our plan would definitely be effective in offsetting some of the problems of such a spill, not only to FIU and NSU, to the benefit of all.”

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