Beyond the Horizon was a discussion of a potential network of special ocean places to help strengthen the ecology, economy and culture of the Gulf of Mexico that took place May 11-13, 2011, at Mote Marine Laboratory. The conference, convened by Mote, the Harte Research Institute, the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences and the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, had the goal of building consensus for establishing ecologically significant protections for key Gulf of Mexico sites to ensure that they continue to provide important services to our society and to identify the mechanisms that allow comprehensive approaches to management and allow for the significant involvement of the public in decision making. Visioning Document.

Conference Proceedings

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A Network of Special Places

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The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon was more than an oil spill. It was a national tragedy that showed how lives, communities and ecosystems can be harmed if we fail to responsibly use and adequately protect our ocean’s resources. The environmental disaster and social disruptions that followed demonstrate that the Gulf’s ecological and human environments are interwoven.

  • 14 million people call the Gulf Coast home
  • The region provides jobs for 20 million people
  • Oil and gas, tourism, fishing and shipping in the Gulf of Mexico generate $234 billion annually
  • The region’s petroleum industry provides half of all the U.S. oil production and refining capabilities, employs 100,000 people and pays $12 billion in wages
  • Tourism generates 620,000 jobs and $9 billion in wages
  • The commercial fishing industry lands 1.3 billion pounds of seafood worth $662 million
  • 66 percent of the ocean-transported cargo shipped to and from the U.S. comes through the Gulf’s six major ports
  • The Gulf of Mexico provides habitat for 15,400 documented species — including 1,500 species that live only in the Gulf

The health of the Gulf of Mexico relies on the health of its physical and biological connections throughout the region. The Gulf’s currents not only nourish and sustain life, they can also be vectors for the threats that extinguish life. The condition at any single place in the Gulf’s interconnected system of marine habitats is influenced by the conditions upstream and also influences the condition of places downstream.

Not all the Gulf’s special places are special for the same reason, but they are all interconnected.

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy highlighted that we have inadequately protected the Gulf’s environment, its communities and its wildlife from harm or prevented such disasters from occurring in the first place. We must respond to this need with the same urgency and joint resolve that was mobilized for the oil spill. We need to now stop the losses and protect our investment in the Gulf of Mexico.

Giving Back to the Gulf of Mexico
We are at a pivotal moment in our relationship with the Gulf of Mexico. Our Gulf balance sheet is running a large deficit. We must repay the Gulf for what it has given us or it may stop giving. How we repay that debt will determine what we leave for future generations. We must now...

  • Explore the Gulf’s Frontiers
  • Balance Use with Protection
  • Build a Network
  • Work Together