Bill Finch, the director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, is blogging for Cool Green Science about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Conservancy’s efforts in Alabama to protect shellfish reef restoration projects there from the coming slick. Read all his posts.
The cameras and news crews have taken the long, lonely coastal road down to Venice, Louisiana, that sinking city on the edge of the Mississippi Delta marsh.
Elbow to elbow they stand, fighting for that first shot of a tar ball or an oily gull when it finally comes ashore. The anticipation is intense, the crews on edge. Our attention spans are short. We’ll need a snapshot of the landfall before the news cycle expires.
This spill is no hurricane. It’s not making a beeline to anywhere. The Gulf is unusually calm. The spill will take its time, spreading east and west farther than we dared to dream. Before it comes ashore, it may well embrace the entire northern Gulf Coast.
There is no need to push or shove for that first photo. This is the South. Display some courtesy. There are so many places we can visit where the oil will come ashore.
Come see the chocolate slurry settle like a long winter rain on the Flower Gardens, that great dome of coral reef deep off the Texas coast.
Come watch it wrap around the stems of iris in the Atchafalya Basin where the Mississippi River is building new Louisiana in the western Gulf.
There’ll be fine footage of the shrimp boats idled on Vermillion Bay in Louisiana’s western marsh, of east shore oystermen when they tong their first brown-coated oysters from Breton Sound.
Who’ll be there when the slick runs up the sandbars of the Pascagoula, Mississippi’s singing river, the only place in the world where the yellow-blotched map turtles make their nests?
Who’ll be in Alabama when it percolates through the stark white shell islands of Grand Bay, where Ben and I once made lunch with fresh oysters we dug by hand and savory red Christmas berries gathered from the shell mound, a meal First Nations must have enjoyed there thousands of years before?
Who will be taking pictures when Dennis (pictured above) and Donnie lift a greasy rope to pull their crab traps from Fowl River marsh by Mobile Bay, and throw the crabs back overboard because they are too oiled to eat?
Will you be there when the sheen finds the blue holes on the Choctawhatchee River in northwest Florida, where deep springs produce water so clear you can see the pumpkin bream and watch suspended turtles sculling through the waving leaves of eel grass?
(Image: Dennis Zirlott steers his workboat through the swamps and marshes of Fowl River. Image credit: Bill Finch/TNC.)