Extent and degree of shoreline oiling: Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico, USA

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 12;8(6):e65087. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065087. Print 2013.


The oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was documented by shoreline assessment teams as stranding on 1,773 km of shoreline. Beaches comprised 50.8%, marshes 44.9%, and other shoreline types 4.3% of the oiled shoreline. Shoreline cleanup activities were authorized on 660 km, or 73.3% of oiled beaches and up to 71 km, or 8.9% of oiled marshes and associated habitats. One year after the spill began, oil remained on 847 km; two years later, oil remained on 687 km, though at much lesser degrees of oiling. For example, shorelines characterized as heavily oiled went from a maximum of 360 km, to 22.4 km one year later, and to 6.4 km two years later. Shoreline cleanup has been conducted to meet habitat-specific cleanup endpoints and will continue until all oiled shoreline segments meet endpoints. The entire shoreline cleanup program has been managed under the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT) Program, which is a systematic, objective, and inclusive process to collect data on shoreline oiling conditions and support decision making on appropriate cleanup methods and endpoints. It was a particularly valuable and effective process during such a complex spill.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / history*
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • History, 21st Century
  • Petroleum Pollution / history*
  • Petroleum Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States

Grants and funding

This work was conducted under the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Unified Command. Funding was provided by BP, as the Responsible Party. However, the NOAA, RPI, and Atkins authors were funded through NOAA, who is the Scientific Support Coordinator to the US Coast Guard. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.