Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Year After the BP Oil Disaster; A Walk on Mississippi Beaches

Last weekend I went to Mississippi's Gulf Coast beaches. I arrived just before sunset. Before the light was gone I photographed four dead sea turtles and a variety of other animals--birds, jellyfish, stingray, armadillo and catfish. I walked the beaches on Saturday and Sunday too, exploring different spots from Waveland to Gulfport and shot over 100 carcasses.

Animals die. Sometimes you find them on the beach. But I don't believe that what I found on the Mississippi beaches in normal . Click here to see what i found from ARPRIL 15-17th. Is the BP oil disaster the cause of these deaths? There is no scientific proof one way or the other. Is there a connection to the oil that spilled and the dispersants that were dropped on the Gulf's surface that spread through the air and have found their way into the blood of many of the oil spill clean up workers? I can't say for sure. It is clear it wont be easy to pin the animail deaths on BP, the corporation responsible for the largest environmental disaster in American history.

So, sticking to the facts, if you want to take photographs of dead animals, including endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, head to the Mississippi beaches. Maybe the tourist industry that just received a generous chunk of money from BP ought to consider a new slogan"Visit our beaches where you can find a dead animals every 100 ft or so." A lot of us are into the macabre, right? The influx of dead animals could draw those into death to the coast which might balance out rooms lost to those concerned with the warnings at the beach warning people that the tar balls from the oil spill may be harmful to your health. Use the beach at your own risk..

To see more of my work on the BP oil disaster check out page on my site here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dead Kemp's Ridley Turtles Washing up in MS and an Update from Bay Jimmy

Dead Kemp's Ripley sea turtle in Waveland MS
Dead Kemp's Ridley sea turtle spray painted so it wont be counted twice 
Dead sea turtle left for days next on beach in Waveland MS
Dead Kemp's Ridley sea turtle in Pass Christina MS
Dead Kemp's Ridley sea turtles on the Mississippi beaches, images I kept seeing on Facebook posts, prompted me to check it out for myself. I found four in the course of three hours. The beaches where I found some of the turtles are closed as of Sunday due to high bacteria counts caused by runoff of fecal matter, I've been told, not oil and dispersant.

On Fox 8, a local news station, John Snell recently went out to Bay Jimmy as I did days before to check on the status of the marsh. He and I came back with very different visuals. Snell went out during high-tide, the time when the damage to the coast is hidden under water.I went out low tide after a storm, when the lasting effects of the BP oil spill are best seen. Neither of us came back with the full story. Coastal restoration is a huge issue in Louisiana, one that, like the oil spill, effects the whole nation. The science can't be told in soundbites. The opinions of business owners and politicians are important too, but one has to question the motivation of whoever is speaking. Facts trump opinion and unfortunately not much scientific evidence is available yet or has been shared in the mainstream media . The dolphin die offs are under wraps; researchers are under a standing gag order. During the spill, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had one from the federal government and released more misinformation than fact.

The mess in the Gulf, yeah, it could have been way worse, but that doesn't mean it wasn't and still isn't bad. Who's to say what the lasting effects will be? Who's to judge how much the killing of the marsh grass by the oil and chemical will effect an already disappearing coast line? Why are dozens of endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles washing up dead? I don't have the answers, but I do believe in documenting what I have seen.

In an article by the AP on April 7, 2011 the day before I found the turtles, april 7th 2011 they they said NOAA was pointing the blame at fishing and shrimping boats as the cause of the turtles deaths. In response to the article on line Clint Guidry , president of the Louisiana shrimp association wrote, "Totally and utterly RIDICULOUS! Shrimper's have been using TED's ( turtle excluder devices) for years now, without these turtle mortality rates. This spike in turtle mortality should be placed squarely where it belongs, BP oil disaster and the use of toxic dispersants. What is the limit to the extremes the US agencies will go to protect BP's liability in this oil disaster?"

Before you go to a Gulf Coast beach, you should check government sites to see if the water is safe: That's what the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality suggests. Their reports are meant to protect our health and safety. We rely on government regulatory agencies that check self-policing energy corporations that say they are not putting more pollutants into the environment than are legally permitted. Their work is of the utmost importance. But organizations like Mineral Management Service have grossly failed us. And if you watch tv or read news stories on line, you've seen BP ads telling us they are making the Gulf Coast whole again. How nice if that were true.

I don't have answers to any of the pressing concerns facing the Gulf Coast, but I do know something has failed the endangered Kemp's Ridely turtles and the loggerheads too. That much I know.
Oil in the marsh at Bay Jimmy
Oil remains where marsh grass was killed by the oil in Bay Jimmy

Dead marsh grass in Bay Jimmy
Oil washed further in to the marsh after a storm in Bay Jimmy