BP on Monday pledged to spend $500 million for independent research on the Gulf oil spill's impact on marine life.

The energy giant said in a press release Monday that the money will go toward a research program to study the effects of the April 20 oil rig explosion on marine and shoreline environments of the Gulf coastal states.

"BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast," said BP's chief executive Tony Hayward. "We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future."

"There is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific community has access to the samples and the raw data it needs to begin this work," Hayward said.