The Beacon

Blog Tags: Gulf Oil Spill

A 'Category 10' Disaster

Last week I met Cherie Pete, who operates a mom-and-pop style sandwich shop called Maw’s in the marshy lowlands of Boothville, LA – about two hours south of New Orleans.

Normally recreational fishermen stop by her shop to fuel up before deep-sea fishing trips in the Gulf. But with fishing restricted in most federal waters off the coast of southern Louisiana, Pete’s clientele base has disappeared.

“Normally we’d be swamped at this time,” she told me. Instead, the shopfront was nearly empty with only a few customers trickling by to purchase a cool drink in the 100-degree heat (including Brian Williams of NBC News who made a stopover with his camera crew.)


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New Report: The Oil Spill's Impact on Sea Turtles

© AP/Dave Martin

Today we released a new report that describes the potential effects of the oil spill on endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sea turtles can become coated in oil or inhale volatile chemicals when they surface to breathe, swallow oil or contaminated prey, and swim through oil or come in contact with it on nesting beaches.

As of yesterday, 32 oiled sea turtles have been found in the Gulf of Mexico and more than 320 sea turtles have been found dead or injured since the spill began April 20.

While some dead and injured sea turtles are found by search crews or wash up on the beach, some never will. Ocean currents often carry them out to sea where they can sink or be eaten by predators.

Our report shows that the ongoing oil spill can have the following impacts on sea turtles:


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Q&A with Ocean Hero Jay Holcomb

Jay Holcomb

Jay Holcomb, left, is this year's Ocean Hero.

This year’s Adult Ocean Hero is Jay Holcomb, the Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). As I wrote a few weeks ago, Jay is down on the Gulf Coast leading his organization’s efforts to clean up oiled birds from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

How does it feel to win this award?   

In a nut shell, it feels really great. I never did the work I do expecting to be awarded for it. My career stems from a passion that has burned in me since I was a child. Being recognized for helping to protect and represent the oceans more or less justifies the sacrifices I have made in my life for my work.    

The timing is pretty incredible, huh?  

It’s ironic and poignant that I won this award while I am in the midst of what is looking like the greatest oil spill disaster of all time, and that of course is polluting the ocean and the ecosystems within it.

The impact on the ocean and the world will be severe. This we know. But as horrible as this spill is, the timing may be perfect. This disaster is an opportunity to make the point that the ocean systems are the lifeblood of life on earth as we know it.

Look at what our quest for oil has done, and if this does not evoke a change in how we "fuel" our world then nothing will. We are ALL responsible for this. Not just BP or the oil industry or our government.  


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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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Bills, Boat Payments Pile Up for Louisiana Fishermen

Image courtesy Emily Peterson.

We received the following dispatch from Carter Lavin, an Oceana supporter, environmental activist and energy-issue blogger, about his experience volunteering in the gulf. You can read more from him here.

Two weeks ago I had this idea that I would fly down to New Orleans and sign up to help clean up oil from the beaches of southern Louisiana. I would then catch one of the dozens of buses that were going from Jackson Square to the beaches for the clean up along with hundreds of other volunteers. We would spend the whole day there, clean up the beach, rescue a pelican or two and then head home.

I learned a few things about the clean up effort rather quickly. I learned that southern Louisiana does not really have beaches to clean; it’s nearly all marshlands. This means most clean up efforts have to be done from a boat, or the places are only boat accessible. Plus, you need to be certified to clean up hazardous materials, which requires 40 hours of training.


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Hurricane Season Begins as BP Tries Dome Again

Today is the first official day of hurricane season, and meteorologists predict that it could be a doozy.

That alone would be cause for concern on the Gulf Coast, but there’s also the pesky matter of the biggest oil spill in U.S. history that continues to defy containment efforts. A hurricane in the Gulf could push even more oil ashore and would shut down response efforts to the spill.


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Dr. Jeffrey Short: Oil Pollution Expert

Dr. Jeffrey Short, Oceana's Pacific Science Director, recently retired from a 31-year career as a research chemist at NOAA, where he worked primarily on oil pollution and other contaminant issues. 

He was the leading chemist for the governments of Alaska and the United States for the natural resource damage assessment and restoration of Exxon Valdez oil spill, and guided numerous studies on the distribution, persistence and effects of the oil.


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Factsheet: They Said It Was Safe

For more, check out the PDF of this factsheet.

Representatives from both the oil industry and the U.S. government insisted offshore drilling was safe. They were wrong.

Quotes from the Oil Industry:

“This is the first time the industry has had to confront this issue in this water depth, and there is a lot of real-time learning going on.” Tony Hayward, BP Chief Executive Officer, May 10, 2010


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Factsheet: The Timor Sea Oil Spill of 2009

For more, read the PDF of this factsheet.

On August 21, 2009 the Montara oil rig suffered a blowout and began spilling oil. The well was located in 250 ft of water, between East Timor and Australia. It took four attempts over ten weeks to block the leak and it was eventually achieved when mud was pumped into a relief well.


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Factsheet: Options for Dealing with an Oil Spill

For more, see the PDF version of this factsheet.

There is no truly effective way of cleaning up an oil spill. All the options available are not fully effective or have negative impacts.

Burning the Slick

Unfortunately, burning the oil is a no-win situation; it creates large, toxic plumes of smoke that can result in respiratory problems and eye, nose, throat and skin irritations in both wildlife and humans. Birds may also become disoriented in the smoke.

Burning may be the lesser of two evils as it removes large amounts of oil that can result in immediate and long-term impacts to wildlife in the area, including skin irritations, organ damage, reproductive failures, developmental abnormalities and death.


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