Local groups announce Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery, demand action at six-month anniversary of Deepwater Horizon explosionOctober 20th marks six months of BP’s oil drilling disaster in the Gulf. The disaster has taken its toll on the coast, and impacts will be felt by real people for decades. Reforms are urgently needed to prevent future disasters, and the Gulf’s people and places need lasting, continued support to recover.”We have to make ourselves heard with one voice: the oil is still here, and so are we,” said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of Gulf Restoration Network. “The recent gathering of groups working on issues surrounding the BP drilling disaster was a major step forward in the fight to ensure full and fair restoration of Gulf communities and natural resources. We all came together, from local fishermen to Greenpeace, to send a unified message to the Administration and Gulf state governors that the oil is not gone and neither are the affected communities.”On October 4-6, 2010, ninety-five people representing forty-six community, local, regional, national and international environmental, social justice, and fishermen’s groups met in Weeks Bay, Alabama to draft The Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery , a set of goals and principles to guide the recovery and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf coast and its communities in the wake of the BP drilling disaster.The diverse communities that live, work, and derive benefit from the Gulf call on government to take responsibility to:Make coastal communities whole again;Commit to cleaning up and restoring the Gulf;Hold BP accountable;Ensure local participation in decision-making;Conduct short and long-term monitoring; andInvest in economic opportunities to support locally-driven, sustainable recovery that restores and enhances America’s Gulf coast.”We have been witness to the environmental destruction that has been on-going in the Gulf for decades,” said Rosina Philippe of the Grand Bayou Community, a water-locked, native-american coastal community in Louisiana. “Louisiana loses approximately a football field of wetlands every 45 minutes, and 40 to 60% of that land loss is attributed to oil and gas activity, and the BP oil disaster has come ashore in these critical marsh areas and has accelerated [this loss].”Paul Nelson, a commercial fishermen, with the South Bay Communities Alliance in Alabama, said, “On our immediate shoreline, this past week, they have found chemicals associated with Corexit [dispersant], and we’re dealing with the public not knowing exactly what is there, and where it’s at. The chemical is still out there, the oil is still out there.””It’s our culture, it’s our heritage [at stake],” Clint Guidry of the Louisiana Shrimp Association explained, “This thing turned into a disaster that was more political than scientific. The opening of these off-shore areas and inland waters was just too perfect. I think that the perception that the oil is here is a reality, and there’s no science-based information available to the public to change that perception.””The most visible impact in Florida communities has been an economic one. Our job market is fully dependent upon tourism. Beach and coastal businesses are closing right and left,” said Chasidy Hobbs, the Emerald Coastkeeper in Pensacola, FL, “We’ve been much luckier than our neighboring states, but that being said . . . every week, we get more patches of oil bubbling up in the bays and tarballs coming in.””More than half [of our community members] are what you would call “subsistence’ fishermen that catch their food everyday,” explained Derrick Evans, Executive Director of the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, “This disaster was not an equal opportunity disaster, it has clearly hit the most vulnerable communities the hardest.”###The Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery For extended stories from the Gulf Coast residents listed here, listen to a recorded teleconference at Community voices on the 6-month mark.mp3 (10 Megs)To support Congressional action to implement the Weeks Bay Principles, visit http://BPdrillingdisaster.orgFor photos of the oil and on-going impacts, visit www.flickr.com/photos/healthygulf (includes flyover photos from October 19, 2010) and www.bridgethegulfproject.org.