Bird’s Eye View: Must-See New Photos and Report from the Gulf

Over the last few weeks, there has been renewed attention down here in the Gulf region thanks to the planned BP trial and eventual partial settlement. You may have seen GRN staff at a wide range of meetings and events such as our recent Gulf Gathering in Alabama and a protest on Poydras Street in New Orleans. You may have also read any number of articles or heard interviews quoting GRN staff in the local, national and international media. Recently the media focus has shifted from the BP trial to the RESTORE Act which was just added to the Transportation Bill by the U.S Senate. GRN continues to stay focused on all of the moving parts of this ongoing disaster and continues to fight for a healthy Gulf using all of the strengths that, thanks to supporters like you, we are able to leverage and apply. This includes our field monitoring program along the Gulf coast to ensure that the ongoing impacts of the BP disaster are documented and shared. Below is a state by state expose on impacts that continue to occur in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, all within the last few weeks.Louisiana:During the week of February 24th, I was asked to accompany journalists down to the Louisiana coast to show them current impacts and to help them connect the dots between the BP trial, partial settlement, and the reality as it stands on the coast. One reporter in particular, Dahr Jamail, has been relentless in his pursuit of the truth regarding what is really happening despite BP’s fancy ads. Since early on this disaster, Dahr, photographer Erika Blumenfeld and I and have teamed up on numerous excursions by boat, plane and foot to document the oil. On February 24th I accompanied them to Elmer’s Island and Grand Isle State Park to find current oil impacts. Here is a link to Dahr’s report from this trip. Here are some photos of what we found: Mississippi:Along the Mississippi Gulf coast, the impacts from the BP disaster continue to manifest despite denials by BP and Mississippi public officials. Whether it’s tar balls on Deer or Horn Islands or tar balls on the beaches of Gulfport and Long Beach, the impacts are real and current. There is still an ongoing huge spike in the number of dead animals and marine creatures which continue to wash ashore on a daily basis. One resident of Gulfport, Laurel Lockamy, walks the beaches several times a week to document the ongoing carnage. Laurel is ever vigilant and refuses to go away. GRN is grateful that there are dedicated citizens like her who are fearless defenders of the Gulf who are working to ensure that justice is done and that the truth about what is happening is shared. Here are some of Laurel’s photos from just the past couple of weeks: Alabama:At our last Gulf Gathering a couple of weeks ago at Camp Beckwith along Weeks Bay, one of the attendees shared a problem that local fishermen and shrimpers were noticing in Mobile Bay. He invited a group of folks to come back to Alabama and accompany some 4th generation shrimpers on their boat, the Salty Pirate, lead by Captains Michael Paul Williams, Pete Zirlott, and Sidney Schwartz. This past myself, Dahr and Erika, and Terese Collins of the Gulf Islands Conservancy, Inc, joined the shrimpers for a day long journey planned and coordinated by Zack Carter and Bonny Schumaker into Mobile Bay. You can click here to read Bonny’s blog from the trip. We were told of some unusual behavior by pelicans and other seabirds in the Bay. It is not uncommon to see birds following their shrimp boats, but recently the birds have become very aggressive and are attacking the boats, the nets, and the decks, in search of food. According to the shrimpers, “the birds are behaving as if they are starving and desperate for food, to the point that they seem to have little regard for danger to their own lives.” According to the people at a seabird rescue center near Mobile, and they’ve been receiving a much larger than normal number of young pelicans who are almost starved. Their theory is that the young ones are unable to catch enough fish for themselves. Another thing that stood out during this trip was that we saw no dolphins in Mobile Bay. Those on board, including the Captain and crew were alarmed at this because they usually have dolphins all around their path. We also spotted an oily sheen on the surface of the Bay. The fishermen stated that they have been seeing oil wash into Mobile Bay since 2010 when the oil first hit the shores of Alabama. Take a look at the photos from this trip: Another Alabama resident, Michelle Walker-Harmon has been tirelessly documenting the ongoing impacts along the Alabama coast. Just a couple of days ago, Michelle shared this video and asked for help in getting this out to the world so that people can understand the current reality the environment and residents are facing. Check out the video here.Florida:During the week of February 21st (Mardi Gras), Marcelle Jumonville Viator, a college friend of mine at LSU, sent me a message with some photos. Marcelle had taken her family to Seaside Florida on the panhandle between Destin and Panama City and was very distressed when her kids came across what appeared to be at least a mile long stretch of tar balls on what should have been a white, sandy, pristine shoreline. According to Marcelle, “”they were awful and so hard to wash off our skin. It was so much, at least 1 mile of the beach.” So, she snapped a couple of photos and sent them to me. Take a look: Macondo Prospect:You may recall that I have reported on an ongoing leak in the Macondo prospect, near the location of the Deepwater Horizon debacle. I have flown over the leak on numerous occasions with Bonny Schumaker of On Wings of Care. Just about a week ago, Bonny, Dahr and Erika flew out again to document that there is still a problem and oil is still seeping. Whether it is from BP’s failed Macondo well, the riser pipe owned by Transocean, a fracture on the sea-floor caused by oil and gas activity, or a naturally occurring fissure, we have not, thus far been able to pin-point the origin. We do know that the leak is at the same GPS coordinates every time and we do know that this has been ongoing since at least last fall when Bonny and I first flew out over it. Take a look at some photos that Erika took on their most recent flyover and then check out Bonny’s Blog and Dahr’s report. As you can see from these photos, all taken within the last few weeks, there are still current, ongoing impacts to the marine and coastal environment as well as to residents along the Gulf coast. While GRN will continue to monitor the situation in the Gulf and update you with new developments, we need your support to keep the pressure on BP and our government to hold them accountable and win better protections for the Gulf. Please take action and donate to support these efforts. Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizaer for GRN.

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