This is a first-hand account from this week's recon mission by environmental watchdog group the Blue Seals. In order to protect the identity of the author, this posting will be anonymous:
Today we once again made ourselves available to film with the bird rescue group heading out to Breton Island and Chandelier Islands after word came during the nite that oil had come to shore. These islands are home to numerous seabirds and Breton has endangered brown pelicans.
Normally rescue groups would scare birds away from spills but this is nesting season and scaring birds off at this time could easily do more harm than good. This is also spawning time for fish and it is feared that a whole generation of animals may be lost. In Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill the herring never came back.
With so many species overfished already, there is a real fear that many may now reach their tipping point and be wiped out. Also the extremely rare resident sperm whale population inhabit the deep water exactly in the region around the spill. They are non-nomadic and so will have no place to go ... but extinction.
Our volunteer services were rejected as expected as it is obvious that BP does not want pictures of dead animals. The U.S. government officials and bird groups do their best to talk privately, and when they return at night it is all very secretive. BP has been very successful so far in controlling the story.
First it is very expensive renting boats and areas of interest take hours to access. Even news organizations do not have unlimited budgets to continue to spend the $2,000 to $3,000 a day to be on site. Helicopters are also expensive. Sooner or later the press will give up, and go home. Without pictures there is no story. The contracts BP had with the fishermen contained gag orders, and when a legal challenge was made on behalf of the fishermen, the contracts were changed.
Today it appears the bird rescue group had twice the number of boats as they feel that today they would discover animals to be saved. Security was still high as we left Venice. We drove to New Orleans to hook up with Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network. When we arrived Jonathan was on a conference call with the White House action team with invited parties.
After listening to typical government officials explaining how quickly they responded and how much they were doing, Jonathan asked why boats with journalists and independent scientists were being restricted from the spill area. This had happened to Dr. Rick Steiner and the USA Today crew yesterday. The answer was because of safety concerns.
It is interesting that the government and BP have no problem with hundreds of gag-ordered local fishermen who have no experience in oil spills, whereas marine scientists with a lifetime of knowledge and experience are excluded. The entire conference call wrapped up quickly after that. It is my belief that BP does not want independent testing or observation of their operations. Simple as that.
The spill area should be opened to independent analysis immediately. Everyone seems to admit that this is not your normal spill. Instead of oil floating on the surface it is integrated through the water column ... akin to emulsified salad dressing. Whether it is because it comes from a mile down, or because the haphazard attempts to attack the leak involved dispersants which could threaten all sea life at the bottom of the ocean, we don't yet know. But we do know this makes it nearly impossible to clean up, as most of the oil is not on the surface cannot be skimmed with the booms being used.
As we observed yesterday, the skimming operation using local fishermen appeared useless and futile, probably burning more fuel than they collected. This is more like a "feel-good" operation — to give the false appearance that progress is being made. It is not.
It appears no one really knows what to do and how to address this disaster. A major spill like this has never really been cleaned up, and I am afraid this one won't be successfully dealt with either. We humans might have to decide between cheap gas and seafood. But if we kill the oceans, we may kill ourselves!
It is time we get off oil. No matter what anyone says, it is not safe. Government stats say that in a study of well blow-outs over a 13-year period, 1 in every 370 wells will have a blow out ... not "might," will blow out. This is a government stat! There are more than 5,000 wells in the Gulf. You do the math.
It appears the survival of humans on this planet should at least be considered. It does not appear to be a consideration at this point. I suggest we make it our number one priority.
Photo by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (taken yesterday). See more.