Bird’s-Eye View: Latest Footage BP Doesn’t Want You To See

Last I took another flyover the site of where the Horizon went down, or the “source” , as well as the Louisiana coast from South Pass to Grand Isle. I invited marine conservation biologist, Rick Steiner, on the flight with me to provide GRN with his expert analysis. Dr. Steiner has been working closely with the GRN providing helpful input based on his expertise in oil disaster impacts, especially his involvement in the Exxon Valdez catastrophe. Many of our flights and boat excusions including this one have been made possible by Jo Billups of the environmental music duo, Sassafrass. As we headed to the “source” it didn’t take long to come across the vast slick now encompassing a great portion of the Gulf of Mexico. At about 26 miles from the “source” the slick is highly visible and uniform and stretches as far as the eye can see. Our rough calculations, based visually on what we could see, estimate that as of Friday the slick stretched at least 1000 sq. miles. This estimate is based only on our flight path and doesn’t account for areas of the slick that were out of our range.The amount of oil we encountered is staggering. The lack of response vessels working to contain this oil is bitterly disappointing. At the “source” we counted at most a dozen boats with boom working to contain the oil. However, the source is the only place we found these boats and none of them appeared to be skimmer vessels. Other than the “source” itself, we spotted no other containment efforts until we flew along the Louisiana coast from East Bay to Grand Isle. This particular flight included monitoring the impacts to Barataria Bay and the photos show a massive amount of oil making entry.At and around the source, we were able to clearly see that there is oil just beneath the surface and Steiner estimates that this oil is likely in the water column for several thousand feet. This is a huge concern because this is the spawning season and area for bluefin tuna, marlin, whale sharks, sperm whales, and other important marine life. The larvae form these sea creatures are floating in the water in this area at this time of year and we know that they are inevitably mixing with BP’s toxic mess. It’s basically biological springtime in the Gulf of Mexico and these eggs and larvae are extremely vulnerable to exposure. Even a slight concentration of oil can be lethal. There has been little research made public, if it even exists, as to what the offshore impacts will be. Steiner expressed to me his frustration that there we spotted no research vessels doing this kind of analysis.GRN will continue with this type of ongoing independent monitoring and analysis. We have encountered restrictions on our ability to do so but, thanks in no small part to our members and allies, we have been able to assert ourselves and have had exceptions made for us where others, including the media have not. For example, the photos at the “source” were taken at an altitude of 1500 ft, well below the temporary flight restrictions set up by BP. It is critical that our members and allies continue to demand unrestricted access for us so that we can continue to be the independent watch dog that has not been commandeered by BP, the federal government, or the media. So please have a look at the photos and if you would like to see us continue with what we are doing, please consider making a donation!Jonathan is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.

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