Co-Authored by Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA and Aaron Viles, Deputy Director of Gulf Restoration Network
The BP disaster turns two this week. Two years since the nation was reminded that offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and deadly. Two years since the slow-motion disaster began changing our region, our communities, our ecosystem.
As we look back and assess where we are today, a troubling picture is emerging from the Gulf.
Throughout the foodchain, warning signs are accumulating. Dolphins are sick and dying. Important forage fish are plagued with gill and developmental damage. Deepwater species like snapper have been stricken with lesions, and their reefs are losing biodiversity. Coastal communities are struggling with changes to the fisheries they rely upon. Hard-hit oyster reefs aren’t coming back and sport fish like speckled trout have disappeared from some of their traditional haunts. BP’s oily fingerprints continue to mar the landscape and destroy habitats.
With these impacts already here, some scientists are alarmed by what they’re finding. Unfortunately their concerns are largely drowned out by BP and the “powers that be” shouting through very large megaphones that, ‘all is fine, BP is making it right, come and spend your money’. But the truth is far different. The Gulf of Mexico, our nation’s energy sacrifice zone, continues to suffer.
Of course, the Gulf wasn’t a pristine ecosystem on April 19, 2010. The coastal wetlands of the Mississippi River delta were in a crisis state, losing a football field worth of wetlands every hour due to our mismanagement of the river for flood control and dependable shipping lanes. This crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the oil industry being allowed to dredge 10,000 miles of canals through our coastal zone, removing marsh and increasing subsidence.
Louisiana’s coastal wetlands system is among the fastest disappearing landmasses on earth, diminishing at the rate of 18 square miles every year. The coastal zone is vast however, making up 30 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands but is experiencing 90% of the nation’s wetlands loss, a total of over 1,800 square miles since 1932.
These wetlands are absolutely critical to our nation. Supplying $3 trillion annually to the U.S. economy, the Mississippi River and the Gulf coast create an international gateway for products like coffee, grain, seafood, oil, and gas. The Gulf coast has historically been the cradle of nearly one-third of the commercial fish and shellfish harvest of the lower 48 states. Critical for migratory birds, the coast is used by up to 40 percent of North America’s duck, geese, and eagle populations. Jazz, Funk, Zydeco, and Fats Domino were all born in southern Louisiana. Read the rest of this entry →