Bird’s Eye View: Another GRN Flyover BP Disaster Site

Yesterday, May 10, once again I went on a lengthy flyover over coastal Louisiana and the open waters of the gulf to the site where the Deep Water Horizon sank. This flyover was made possible thanks to the generous support of Jo Billups, GRN member and activist. With me on board the flight were Dr. Carl Safina, President of the Blue Ocean Institute, and Environmental and Nature photographer, Daniel Beltra.Our mission on this particular flyover was to monitor the ongoing response efforts by BP as well as to survey the impacts of oil on coastal wetlands and beaches. In particular, we were looking to capture footage from the sky of the same area of the coast line where we had been the day before by boat and where we discovered oil impacting the beaches of East Bay just to the east edge of South Pass. I also wanted to see if the birds in the crosshairs that I reported on Monday were still there and if there were any discernible changes in the level of protection to their sensitive habitat.After departing from Southern Seaplane in Belle Chase, Louisiana, we flew overand along the Mississippi River and continued south flying over precious wetlands which are not only critical habitat for birds and wildlife, but a critical part of our natural storm defense system. Once we got closer to the coastline, it didn’t take very long to see the impacts of oil on barrier islands as well as the fledgling efforts to contain the oil with booms. We cut over to the area of East Bay and flew directly over the beaches and were able to see the same birds from the day before. From the sky it was difficult to see if they were in distress but, they were there and at least some of them were flying about. Unfortunately, we also saw some of the booms that had previously been placed as a buffer scattered and broken. Perhaps, more importantly and frightening, was realizing that untold gallons of oil was already making its mark upon these birds nesting ground.After surveying this area we flew south toward the site where the Horizon went down. Way before we got there, we were already seeing oil in the open gulf waters. As we got closer, there was oil as far as the eye could see in any direction. The vessels on the surface were no match for the hundreds of miles of oil spread out far and wide. I could only imagine what impact this was having beneath the surface to the marine life such as the sensitive Sperm Whale population known to be in that vicinity, the whale sharks, dolphins, and blue fin tuna, etc. We made several passes around this site until it was time to head back toward the shore.On our way back inland, we decided to veer over to the Breton Sound and the Chandeleur Islands. Below us, inside of the Breton Sound, we came across about a dozen shrimp boats with booms attached instead of nets trying in vain to gather up oil instead of shrimp. If this is the best clean-up response in the Breton Sound that BP can come up with, then it’s worth repeating again and again that we are in deep trouble and that not nearly enough is being done by BP or the federal government to respond to this BP drilling disaster.Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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