sea turtle on coral background looks like stained glass blues yellows

For the year of 2024, we are posting on our LinkedIn page the history of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. From it’s beginnings in 2004, to today. Follow along on social, or save this news article. We will update it with social posts as we progress throughout the year.

20 years of GOMA: Our Origin Story

While we can’t claim to have been bitten by a radioactive spider like spiderman, one could say that we got bit by the collaboration bug. In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy called for regional collaborations to protect and restore America’s oceans. A year later, the governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas established us to do just that. Fast forward 20 years later and four action plans and here we are, continuing to bring people together and do good things for the Gulf. Learn more about our history at


Public input has been a part of who we are from the beginning. During our early formative years, it was recognized that citizen input is critical for identifying priority issues and affecting on-the-ground change.

To capture this input, a series of meetings were conducted that were open to the general public and hosted in 10 communities across the five Gulf States in 2005.

While the series was interrupted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Gulf States managed to conduct all eight workshops prior to the Action Plan’s release.

Input from these workshops is incorporated throughout the Action Plan and represents the opinions of homeowners, recreational fishermen, local leaders, scientists, and a variety of others dedicated to the environmental and economic health of the Gulf.

Citizens expressed concerns about water quality, red tide, bacteria tracking/monitoring, habitat loss, environmental education, the need for additional data, and more.

They also acknowledged the need for a “holistic look at the Gulf system” to evaluate cumulative impacts and recommended that a regional approach be taken to link pollution sources to negative impacts. Ultimately, the workshops demonstrated that there is a strong, united Gulf-wide community voice supporting efforts to address priority issues using a regional approach.

If you’d like to see more of what input was given, check out the Governor’s Action Plan I and look for the Gulf Coast Citizen Input logo.


Action Plan I

The first Governors’ Action Plan for Healthy and Resilient Coasts officially came out in March 2006. This three-year plan outlines 11 actions under five priority issues.

“The Governors’ Action Plan is intended to be a dynamic starting point for effective regional collaboration,” – stated in a letter signed by all five Gulf state governors.

Jim Connaughton, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair also added, “The Action Plan firmly establishes a practical framework and guide for meaningful and sustained progress in our shared economic and ecological stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico region.”

State and federal agencies and other partners committed to working on these 11 actions and to achieving outcomes within the 36-month timeline.

The priority issues focused on included:

  1. Water quality for healthy beaches and shellfish beds included three actions: 1. Improving harmful algal bloom detection and forecasting; 2. Improving water quality management; and 3. Improving government efficiency in water quality monitoring.
  2. Wetland and coastal conservation and restoration included two actions: 1. streamlining coastal restoration and conservation efforts and 2. Increasing the safety of Gulf communities by better understanding the risks of local sea level rise, storm surge and subsidence.
  3. Environmental education included two actions: 1. Encourage local communities to protect the Gulf through education and 2. Conduct a public awareness campaign for the Gulf.
  4. Identification and characterization of Gulf habitats included one action: creating and providing access to interactive habitat maps.
  5. Reductions in nutrient inputs to coastal ecosystems, included three actions: 1. Increase regional coordination in the development of nutrient criteria; 2. implement nutrient reduction activities during Gulf recovery; and 3. Assert and aligned five Gulf State position on the need to address Gulf of Mexico hypoxia.

Detailed Action Blueprints are included in the plan along with a list of what outcomes will occur at the end of the 36-months.

An amazing 99% of the actions detailed in Action Plan I were completed by the end of the 3 years.

Some of the accomplishments included:

Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers (CELCs) were established in each of the five Gulf States and Veracruz, Mexico.

A Regional Sediment Management Master Plan was drafted to provide a framework for better management of Gulf sediment resources facilitating a reduction in coastal erosion and storm damages, as well as the restoration of coastal habitats.

Bi-national workshops designed to standardize harmful algal bloom identification and field sampling methods were conducted in Texas, Florida, and Mexico.

An ecosystem data portal was established and was used by resource managers to evaluate habitat extent and changes over time.

A regional Nutrient Criteria Research Framework was developed that led to a better understanding of nutrient impacts to Gulf ecosystems, as well as a coordinated approach to managing them.

To read the full Action Plan I, visit our website at

Continue to follow along all year on LinkedIn as we continue to explore the 20-year history of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.


Action Plan II

The Governors’ Action Plan II for Healthy and Resilient Coasts was released in 2009. This five-year plan was more aggressive with solutions to address the challenges of the time, including sustaining Gulf economies, improving ecosystem health, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and improving water quality.

“With this plan, the Alliance will continue to improve the ecological and economic health of the Gulf region,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy H. Sutley.

“Capitalizing on the momentum of the first Action Plan, this second Action Plan covering five years is more ambitious and addresses some of the most pressing issues affecting our region.” – stated in a letter signed by all five Gulf state governors.

The core goals of the 2006 Action Plan were to build partnerships and lay a foundation for a true regional approach. Action Plan II was a road map to achieve goals.

Four major challenges were selected including sustaining the Gulf economy, improving ecosystem health, mitigating the impacts of and adapting to climate changes, and mitigating harmful effects to coastal water quality.

Priority issues included:

Water Quality for Healthy Beaches and Seafood with goals of reducing risk of exposure to disease-causing pathogens, minimizing occurrence and effects of harmful algal blooms (HABs), identifying sources of mercury in Gulf seafood, and improving monitoring of Gulf water resources.

Habitat Conservation and Restoration with goals of restoring and conserving critical habitat, providing improved management tools, and developing and implementing an accurate tracking system to document gains and losses of Gulf habitats.

Ecosystems Integration and Assessment with goals of developing regional data systems, establishing strategic partnerships to fill environmental and ecological data gaps, and providing ecosystem decision support tools to address priority issues within the Gulf.

Reducing Nutrient Impacts to Coastal Ecosystems with goals of designing a process for comparing nutrient criteria, developing and implementing strategies that reduce nutrient inputs and hypoxia, establishing a way to reduce impacts to coastal ecosystems, and helping Gulf coastal communities better manage nutrient impacts.

Coastal Community Resilience with goals of helping coastal communities, ecosystems, and economies become more resilient; increasing the understanding of coastal hazards risks; incorporating state-of-the-art mitigation methods for reducing risks and enhancing resilience; and encouraging the adoption of new methods for risk mitigation and resilience.

Environmental Education with goals of continuing implementing environmental literacy with a focus on the Gulf, and promoting stewardship of the Gulf region.

In addition, Action Plan II supported the creation of a parallel Mexican Gulf of Mexico Alliance.

The best laid plans once again hit a snag when, less than a year after its issuance, the unthinkable happened: the explosion and oil spill associated with the Deepwater Horizon platform.

More on how that impacted Action Plan II will be detailed in the next post.


The Oil Spill

When the Governors’ Action Plan II was released in 2009, no one could have imagined what would happen only a year later. Communities were still recovering from storms like Katrina. But the authors of the Action Plan recalled one major lesson learned during the Action Plan I years: change is inevitable. The proof is in the language used in the guiding document:

“Since Action Plan II is designed to be a flexible document, with the ability to react to unforeseen challenges and opportunities, the Alliance hopes that the public will help to identify issues and concerns along the way.”

In April of 2010, the public wouldn’t have to help identify issues, because one of the biggest Gulf of Mexico environmental issues was making international news.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig operating approximately 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana experienced a catastrophic failure causing 11 men to lose their lives. In addition, over 130 million gallons of oil were released and one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history had begun.

Restoration immediately became one of the Gulf ’s largest challenges to date.

“The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill tested the strength of the Alliance, creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities to work together toward Gulf restoration” – stated in a letter signed by all five Gulf state governors for Action Plan III.

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance began administering a 10-year, $500 million oil spill research program known as the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative or GOMRI for short.

In an effort to ensure there were layers between the research and the BP funding, GOMRI worked on studying the environmental and public health impacts of the oil spill and GOMA was in charge of all the fiscal/management aspects.



Two weeks ago, we talked about how the Deepwater Horizon changed the course of our Governors’ Action Plan II. One of the biggest outcomes of the spill for us was the creation of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI).

In May 2010, BP committed $500 million over a 10-year period to create a research program related to oil spills and dispersants and an independent research board would be appointed to oversee the signature research program.

Dr. Rita Colwell, former-director of the National Science Foundation, became GOMRI’s first Chair of the Research Board. Colwell had conducted research and written scientific publications on microbial degradation of oil. The governors of the five Gulf of Mexico states then added to the group by nominating two members per state. The board included science, public health, and research administration experts.

While the board was in charge of reviewing and selecting projects, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance worked as the funding administrator.

The ultimate goal of GOMRI was to improve society’s ability to understand, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of petroleum pollution and related stressors of the marine and coastal ecosystems. The first call to order was to work on rapid-response studies in the immediate aftermath of the DWH oil spill.

The group hosted three public meetings including one in Washington D.C. convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, one at Louisiana State University sponsored by NOAA: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and one in New Orleans, sponsored by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine.

Over 500 people participated in these meetings including representatives from major ocean research institutions and academic departments.

The GOMRI Research Board identified five research themes from the results of these meetings:
Physical distribution, dispersion, and dilution of oil and gas.
Chemical evolution and biological degradation of the petroleum/dispersant systems.
Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the ecosystems and wildlife.
Technology developments for improved response, mitigation, detection and remediation associated with oil spills.
Impact of oil spills on public health.

By the end of GOMRI’s 10 year period, in 2020, the program involved nearly 4,500 researchers, and resulted in more than 1,700 scientific publications. To learn more about GOMRI, visit

Non-profit status and the Business Advisory Council

As the years ticked on, the Alliance became more formalized. In 2010, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance transformed from a loose network of partners to an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization. That same year, the group established a headquarters office on the central Gulf Coast in Mississippi. A year later, the Business Advisory Council was formed to build relationships with the diverse industries dependent on the resources and resilience of the Gulf of Mexico. Business Advisory Council members collaborate with team participants on priority issues and work to foster a shared stewardship of the Gulf. The Council remains active today, meeting in-person annually and meeting online every quarter. If your business would like to join, visit the join us page at or email Becky Ginn at .


More to come.