Nearly eight weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold. Tar balls are washing up on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida beaches, wreaking havoc on region, but the news is not all bleak.
New Cap to Contain Oil
Up to 60,000 barrels of crude flows unabated into the gulf, but a new cap could capture all of the oil pouring from the well, BP says. On Saturday, the company removed a loose-fitting cap in order to put on a tighter-fitting one, a procedure that will likely not be finished until Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
“We’re pleased at this point at how it’s going,” Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president in charge of the effort, said at a briefing on Sunday afternoon, according to the article. The story went on to report that “a relief well that will be used to stop the leak and permanently seal the well was on pace to intercept the blown-out well at the end of the month, and that the procedure to stop the flow of oil by pumping mud into the well, followed by cement, could take several weeks after that.”
Meanwhile, skimmers ply the gulf’s surface collecting oil while birds suffer and conservationists take cautionary measures to protect wildlife.
Bird Mortality Estimates
Rescuers have found hundreds of oiled birds, nearly 200 of them dead, the AP reported last week: “Roughly 420 birds harmed by oil have been found on the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to Ken Rice, director of wildlife rescue in those states. About 190 of the birds were found dead. The species hit the hardest has been the Northern Gannet, which spends most of its life over open seas. Other birds impacted include Brown Pelicans, terns, loons and shore birds. A substantial number of birds harmed by oil are never found, Rice said.”
Arctic Migrants Next Victims
Audubon reports that the next oil spill victims could be tens of millions of Arctic migrants who spend the winter in the gulf or top there to rest on their journeys north.
"The Gulf of Mexico is like Grand Central Station for the birds of the Eastern United States and especially the Mississippi Flyway," said Audubon President Frank Gill in a press release.
Those at risk include semipalmated sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, mallards and snow geese.
Sea Turtle Eggs Moved
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous conservation groups began excavating sea turtle nests along gulf coast beaches and transporting the eggs to Florida’s East Coast.
“This is an extraordinary rescue mission to deal with an unprecedented threat to iconic and endangered sea turtles,” said Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, in a press release. “Nothing on this scale has ever been attempted, but the scientific consensus is that it is worth the risk given the magnitude of the threat.”
The effort will continue for several more weeks to protect the five species that nest there, all of them threatened with extinction.
Rehabbed Pelican Chicks Arrive in Florida
Forty-five brown pelican chicks from the gulf took flight on Saturday—in a plane. The chicks were oiled and treated in Louisiana before being relocated.
“The pelicans, ranging in age from 5-to-10 weeks old, arrived Saturday, July 11, 2010, at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and had been impacted in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and previously cared for at Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La. The chicks were transported to Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Miami where they will remain until they can fly and be released into the wild,” according to the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center.
Their survival is critical. Brown pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List just last November after decades of conservation work done to save the bird from extinction.
Tar Balls on eBay
Some sellers on eBay are putting tar balls up for auction, the Biloxi-Gulfport and South Mississippi Sun Herald reports.
“A vendor from Crestview, Fla., with the seller ID joe8maq had sold 11 and had 10 more for sale Friday. They were listed under the ‘Buy now’ category for $9.95. Shipping was same day and free; assorted sizes and gift wrapping available.”
Another seller from Louisiana made fake tar balls with clothes and eyes, according to the story. The tag line read: “When life gives you tar balls … make one a pet.”