The Beacon: suzannah's blog

On The Cleaning Process For Oiled Birds

Brown pelicans awaiting release at the rescue center. Oceana/Suzannah Evans

Cleaned brown pelicans awaiting release at the rescue center. Oceana/Suzannah Evans

After writing about our visit to the bird rehab center in Louisiana last week, I promised to write a second post going into more detail about the cleaning process for oiled birds the next day. Well, I ended up on a boat for a couple of days, and the week got away from me – so here’s my long-promised update!

Jay Holcomb's International Bird Rescue Research Center is managing the cleaning process for most of the birds taken off the water after the oil spill. So far, they’ve had nearly 600 birds go through the process, mostly pelicans. The space the rescue center inhabits is a large warehouse in the bayou, but they’re already running out of room: While we were there, a worker was building new outdoor cages.

There are no interior walls in the warehouse, which has an assembly-line precision: The birds arrive in pet carriers and are quickly evaluated by a vet in scrubs and rubber boots in one corner known as the medical station, and then they’re placed in plywood-sided compartments with other birds. The birds we saw were all pretty well covered in oil, and in varying states of distress.


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Jay Holcomb Says Thank You

Oceana's 2010 Adult Ocean Heroes Award winner, Jay Holcomb, wasn't able to attend our awards party in LA a few weeks ago - he was too busy rescuing birds affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Last week, he gave the acceptance speech he didn't get a chance to give earlier in front of a large pen full of a couple dozen pelicans whose lives he saved. The birds will be released on the eastern shore of Florida.


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Trying To Understand The Scope Of The Oil Disaster

Today, senior campaign director Jackie Savitz and I went on the first boat trip for conservation groups to observe NOAA's attempt to understand the scope of the oil spill and how to respond to it. The crew we shadowed was trying to measure oil underneath the Gulf's surface. Along the way, we saw shrimpers turned oil skimmers, reddish oil on the water and sadly, a pod of dolphins including calves swimming and feeding in the oil-polluted waters.

In this video, Jackie summarizes a lot of what we saw. We'll have much more video and photos from the trip soon, so stay tuned. Thanks to NOAA for allowing us to come along and learn about this critical work.


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A Parade Of Hopes For Gulf Salvation In Louisiana

Plan for saving the Gulf

Michael Matherne displays his plan for capping the oil leak at a meeting in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Photo: Oceana/Suzannah Evans

In a civic center in St. Bernard Parish last night, BP and government agencies working on the oil spill set up folding chairs and posterboards describing their work in a kind of high school science fair approach to meeting the public. There was NOAA, setting up vials of simulated dispersed oil like a flight of wine; there was the Coast Guard captain in charge of the recovery, Roger Laferriere, giving a heartfelt speech about his dedication to Louisiana with the earnest aplomb of a student body president.

But while the attendees were dominated by a scrum of reporters and camera crews, there were a few hopeful locals mostly interested in meeting one man: Kurt A. Hansen, a project manager with the Coast Guard standing between a table and a sign plainly marked "Alternative Response Technology."

Hansen's job is to take ideas from the public about the fixing the oil spill. He has the inscrutable expression of a man who’s heard it all.

When I approached his table, Hansen was listening patiently to a man complaining that he’d been ignored by BP for weeks.


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A Visit With Jay Holcomb And Some Oily Birds

brown pelicans yearning to be free

Brown pelicans awaiting release after being cleaned. Photo courtesy Suzannah's iphone.

In a cavernous warehouse in Louisiana’s bayou country, hundreds of oiled birds are getting a chance at survival after the BP oil disaster threatened their lives. Most of them are brown pelicans, Louisana’s state bird, along with some gulls, herons, gannets and terns. Until a couple of weeks ago, there weren’t many birds in this makeshift facility backed up against the Mississippi. But with the oil slick’s expansion closer to shore, the number of birds affected exploded – and the rescue center is racing to keep up.

The center is run by Jay Holcomb, and is primarily staffed by his International Bird Rescue Research Center team. Today, I visited Jay along with Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz, and got a firsthand look at the critical work that Jay and his team are doing.

We were also on hand to congratulate Jay on winning Oceana’s 2010 Ocean Heroes Award. He was unable to attend the award ceremony in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago because he was too busy doing the work of an ocean hero – saving birds in the Gulf.

Here’s a video of Jackie talking to Jay about his work and what happens to the birds after they're released. You can hear the helicopters going out to the spill site overhead.


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Tell the Senate To Say No To Big Oil!

Thanks to the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the issue of dependence on oil is more important than ever.

Tell your Senators to Vote NO on the Murkowski Resolution, S.J Res. 26, on June 10th!

While oil spill covers the beaches and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico, Big Oil goes after the Clean Air Act and tries to defeat action on climate change.

The Senate will vote this Thursday, June 10, on legislation that would increase America’s dependence on oil by blocking just-finalized rules that require new cars to use less oil. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is spearheading the effort, backed by Big Oil.

Efforts to block all or part of the Clean Air Act and EPA's ability to use this keystone environmental law to address climate change would seriously undermine the overwhelming science of climate change and further exacerbate impacts to national security and public health and welfare. Additionally, these efforts hold back billions of dollars in job-creating clean energy investments all across the country. America has the ability to lead the world in growing the clean energy economy but our continued dependence on fossil fuels does nothing to drive investments in the clean energy and efficiency programs needed to spur local economic development and job growth.

The Clean Air Act has cost-effectively protected our citizens and the environment for decades. In a 2007 landmark decision the Supreme Court ruled the Clean Air Act covers greenhouse gases and now is the time to put this law to work to fight climate change.

The Murkowski Resolution would undermine long-overdue action to protect Americans citizens and our oceans from climate change impacts and jeopardize growing a vibrant clean energy economy.

Click here to tell your Senators to Vote NO on the Murkowski Resolution, S.J Res. 26, on June 10th!


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Ginning Up Support For Drilling Ban On World Oceans Day

Oceana spoke about the Gulf oil disaster at the California Academy of Sciences.

The Oceana-sponsored World Oceans Day celebration at the renowned California Academy of Sciences was a resounding success. Oceana's presence captivated event attendees.

We displayed Oceana's images of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and gathered several hundred petition signatures supporting a ban on new oil and natural gas drilling in US waters.

Attendees also enjoyed winning Oceana apparel via a question and answer challenge, testing their knowledge of the risks of new drilling operations off California's coast and implications to our coastal resources and economy if a spill were to occur. 

"Californians made their message loud and clear tonight," said Dr. Geoff Shester, Oceana's California Program Director. "The US government must take action now to make sure we never allow the tragedy of the Gulf spill  to ever happen again."


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Celebrate World Oceans Day with January Jones

Watch Oceana spokeswoman January Jones journey to Belize on a La Mer-sponsored dive.


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Ted Danson On Offshore Drilling - in 1991

The Hair

Courtesy People.com.

I thought it was prescient when Oceana board member Ted Danson testified before Congress early last year about the dangers of offshore drilling. Now, in the midst of the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history, Ted has become one of the most visible critics of the oil industry and its false promises, most recently with an appearance on Larry King Live last week.

Ted's ocean activism goes farther back than the oil disaster, of course. I dug up a newspaper story about Ted's first appearance before Congress in April 1991. Still at the height of Cheers fame, Ted is introduced thusly:

"Gone was the carefully blown-dried hair, the red Corvette and the babe-seeking wandering eye of the country's most famous bartender: Cheer's [sic] star Ted Danson wanted to be taken seriously when he told Congress that President Bush's Energy Policy basically stinks."

The article, written with some skepticism about a Hollywood star's place in the halls of Congress, quoted Rep. Wayne Allard, who compared the amount of oil spilled into the oceans to "the teaspoon or so of gas that dribbles down the side of cars at the gas pump. 'Is that an unacceptable risk?' Allard asked."

Nearly twenty years later, it's not hard to tell who was vindicated by history, even if it's a bitter victory. As Ted said then about our energy policy: "It ain't working, guys. Something's got to change."

To view a PDF of the entire newspaper page, including a vintage photo of Paul and Linda McCartney debuting her frozen-foods line, click here.


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The Oiled Bird Photographs Are Here

A brown pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Nearly six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the first truly gutwrenching photos of oiled birds have arrived. Here at Oceana, we've been thinking about the oil spill constantly - and yet it's amazing that one image can be so heartbreaking.

Update Friday afternoon: The New York Times' Lens blog has a nice column about the meaning of these first, intimate images of animals in distress. And the AP photo editor who published the images has this hopeful thing to say about the fate of the birds pictured: "I'm told that the birds that were still alive — mostly pelicans and up to 40 of them — were taken to a bird cleaning facility in Ft. Jackson and are being cared for."

Meanwhile, we've surpassed 75,000 signatures on our petition to end offshore drilling. Please add your name to the list if you haven't already.

For more photos, visit Boston.com.


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