What’s Really Going On In SW Pass?

Last I returned to Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, Louisiana and boarded a 22 ft. fishing boat, headed south to Pass A l’Outre then on to Southwest Pass. The purpose of this excursion was to check on the condition of the marsh grass, catch a few redfish to have analyzed for hydrocarbons, assess the clean-up and containment operations, and to follow up on a tip that I received about heavy oil on beaches along SW Pass. With me that day were Erin Tinsley, a fashion model and volunteer for the GRN, as well as Randy Perez, a videographer from New Orleans.Upon arriving near Pass A l’Outre, we came across a jack up barge housing a staging area full of clean-up supplies and crew. Dozens of contractors were loading bag upon bag of sorbent boom onto smaller vessels. From a safe distance of about 50-60 ft, as I surveyed the operation looking for anything unusual, I was immediately called over by someone aboard the barge. “What are you doing out here, asked a member of the United States Coast Guard. “How come you are taking pictures? Normally we are notified whenever the media is coming out here” , he explained. “Well, sir, surprise surprise” , I exclaimed. “I do not work for the media, I work for an environmental watchdog organization, the Gulf Restoration Network, and I do not have to notify you or BP when I come out here to take pictures of what BP is doing in our wetlands.” “Oh, okay,” he said surrendering. “Have a nice day.” After this brief interruption, we ventured on to check out the condition of the marsh and to drop a line to collect some redfish samples. Much of the marsh in Pass A’lOutre looks pretty bad. Instead of a vibrant green color much of it has a dead, orange look to it. Not a good sign. Also not a good sign is that we fished for about two hours and caught only one. Normally that area would be teeming with redfish. The last item on the agenda for the day was to check out the beaches along Southwest Pass. Unfortunately, the bad weather prohibited us from getting close enough to the beaches to get a good look. However, the flurry of clean-up activity was a clear indication that something was up along the beaches. In fact, the Times Picayune reported this past weekend (although buried in the back of the Sport’s section) that since Friday (the day after we were there) Southwest Pass had been taking on lots of oil. That’s funny; my friend who has been working that area for the Vessels of Opportunity program informed me that oil has been washing up every morning for at least two weeks straight now. It washes up in the morning, they clean it during the day, and it comes back the next day. Now, there are new reports of a major fish kill over the weekend in that area including the death of a baby sperm whale. Again, not a good sign. So I ask again, what is really going on in SW Pass?The whole excursion last Thursday was one bad sign after another. From getting stopped by the Coast Guard to catching only one fish, to the orange colored marsh grass, to the flurry of activity along the beaches, things just aren’t okay down there. To top it all off, the appearance over head of a forming waterspout was a clear signal to me that we should head back home. Jonathan is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for the GRN.

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