Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response

Updated: Dec. 10, 2010


On April 20, an offshore oil-drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana. The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd., was under contract to BP.

Deepwater Horizon is no longer discharging oil into the Gulf, and the well has been permanently sealed.

BP, the United States Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service are the lead response agencies on the oil spill. For information, please visit

In Florida, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been designated the lead state agency for responding to potential impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill along Florida's shoreline.

FWC Involvement

Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, the FWC quickly began coordinating with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as other federal, state and local agencies responding to the disaster. Throughout the response effort, the FWC has contributed scientific guidance and GIS mapping assistance to decision-makers developing response and cleanup strategies.

Working with DEP and other responding agencies, the FWC conducted pre-impact wildlife assessments. These included collecting water samples and examining sediments, fish and shellfish along Florida's coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico. The FWC also evaluated critical habitat, shorebird and sea turtle nesting areas, as well as other wildlife-related concerns. FWC staff pursued solutions to challenges facing Florida's fish and wildlife, ensuring attention was given to issues such as submerged oil, wildlife response and recovery, and natural resource protection. The FWC took action with its partners, when it was necessary, to address concerns regarding potential threats to Florida's fish and wildlife.

At the height of the oil spill response, staff from the FWC was involved in locating the presence of oil. The FWC had scientists aboard vessels offshore and our Division of Law Enforcement engaged 39 vessels, 3 helicopters and 2 fixed-wing aircraft to conduct regular reconnaissance flights to monitor Florida's shoreline for the presence of oil.

The FWC and DEP performed twice-daily beach patrols for Escambia through Okaloosa counties. Officers on ATVs drove the beach looking for pollutants on the beach and reported observations to the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams (SCAT), which are part of the Unified Command response.

FWC personnel were on duty at Unified Incident Command posts in Mobile, Ala., St. Petersburg, Key West and Miami, as well as at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee throughout the various stages of the response effort. Staff from throughout the agency also worked behind the scenes to coordinate all activities and communications.

The FWC continues to provide scientific support to DEP and other agencies, as part of the Unified Command's oil spill response efforts. The FWC is committed to remaining involved in the response to ensure a smooth transition to normal operations regarding fish and wildlife conservation. In addition, the FWC will continue to be involved in research activities into the future to further assess potential impacts from the spill.

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Fisheries Information

Fishing Closure in Federal Waters - NOAA Fisheries Service is enacting emergency regulations to close a portion of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to all fishing, in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Wildlife Information

Shorebirds - Shorebirds and seabirds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance during nesting season. Here are some guidelines to follow for any beach cleanup during nesting season.

Sea Turtles - Sea turtles nest at night on the Gulf coast of Florida from May through August. Hatching of sea turtle nests also occurs at night from July through October.

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Volunteer Information

The FWC appreciates the interest expressed by many in volunteering for wildlife rehabilitation. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are overseeing the wildlife-rehabilitation response along the Gulf coast.  As the number of reports of oiled wildlife had decreased as of September, the wildlife response program for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has been phased out in Florida.

We appreciate the response of Florida's wildlife rehabilitation community during the oil spill event.  Contact your local wildlife rehabilitator to learn about their volunteer needs or to report injured wildlife.  You also can report injured wildlife to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The FWC has compiled a list of answers to questions citizens may have about what they should do to prepare for or respond to the landfall of oil on Florida beaches.

Important Phone Numbers

  • To report oiled wildlife: 888-404-3922.
  • To discuss spill-related damage: 800-440-0858.
  • To report oiled shoreline: 800-320-0519.
  • To request volunteer information: 866-448-5816, or visit the Volunteer Florida website.


FWC Oil Spill Executive Orders

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FWC Facts:
According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 66.1 million people engage in wildlife observation, spending about $38.5 billion per year.

Learn More at AskFWC