Oil Slick Nears Ship Island, MS

So much can change in a day. Yesterday, May 4th, Ship Island Excursions hosted a boat tour of Ship Island, one of the islands in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It was a gorgeous day. Dolphins were playing in the water just as the ship slowed to dock on the northern side of the island near Fort Massachusetts, a national historic site. Sanderlings, a small shore bird, were foraging for food along the water’s edge of the beach. Picturesque and quiet, I was struck by how much Mississippi has to lose.This morning, Southwings pilot Tom Hutchings along with Aaron Viles, GRN surveyed the spill on a flyover and spotted a mass of thick, emulsified oil, called “chocolate mousse” just 11 miles south of Ship Island. Pilot Hutchings stated that he is concerned that the slick could reach the southern shores of Ship Island in one tidal cycle. Mississippi has been lucky so far but that luck may be running out if current weather conditions remain. According to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, there are 19 species listed “rare/endangered” on Ship Island. The island is also where you find the Black Skimmer rookery and the Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle nesting area.From the visit yesterday, I am not hopeful about what I saw as far as protection for the island. Though BP has committed to giving the State of Mississippi $25 million to pay for coastal protection mechanisms, it may be a day late and a dollar short. Currently, there is about 300 feet of the traditional orange boom along the western tip of Ship Island. Yesterday, about 1,000 feet of a new type of larger, black boom was deployed to the southwest end of Ship Island. (see photo)

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