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Lionfish Light The Way

picture of a Red Lionfish

The Red Lionfish, with its graceful fins and venomous spines, is creating a very serious problem since its invasion of the Gulf and Mediterranean waters.

As some of you may know, the Lionfish is a warm-water species from the Indo-Pacific waters.  Sporting venomous spines, they are a generalist, eating everything from fish nearly half their size, to crustaceans, shrimp, etc.  Having been introduced in the early 1990’s off the coast of Florida, they are taking over the Gulf and Caribbean waters.  Their venomous spines are an adaptation that indigenous species have no means of dealing with.  Their presence has been devastating to an already challenged ecosystem.  Starting from that one spot in Florida, and tracing back genetically to just 6 or 8 females released into the Gulf’s waters, they now cover a vast range, covering the entire Gulf and Caribbean region (see image further below.  As generalists, they are destroying the balances of nature, consuming and growing unchecked.  Sturdy, these beautiful fish are akin to the red-tailed hawks of North America; they can live on most anything and thrive in many conditions.  Their only bottleneck now is cooler waters; They don’t seem able to withstand waters further north, so spreading to the UK along the Gulf Stream is unlikely.  Read more

$1 BILLION Dog & Pony Show Begins in Gulf

Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup Progress Announced

NOAA proudly announced that an “unprecedented” one billion dollar deal has been struck with BP to begin restoration of the Gulf.   Is that supposed to impress?  The spill and the use of solvents at depth to bury the oil are also “unprecedented.”  Not one to look  a gift-horse in the mouth, (even when said billion-dollar horse is a fraction of what is owed), one reads on to find out what this money is earmarked for.

There are still millions of gallons of crude oil and at least 1.4 million gallons of Corexit in the Gulf’s waters.  That oil and solvent continues to affect the creatures (including man) living in and near those waters.  A bit over a month ago, dead dolphins began littering the beaches, babies born premature or stillborn at TEN times the usual numbers — and that’s just the near-shore species’ corpses that made it to the beach.  Despite government claims to the contrary, shrimp continues to come up laced with both oil and Corexit.  Instead of acknowledging this, our government simply raises the “acceptable” amount to 500 ppm — when 2.6 ppm is lethal on fish fry within 96 hours.

With that reality, one would THINK that the first order of business would be to find and extract the remaining oil and pollutants with that billion dollar down-payment.  One might think, but that’s not what they’re going to do.  Instead, each of 5 Gulf states will get 100 million dollars with which to reform the coastal/shoreline regions.  Then each of 3 government agencies will get $100 million, and NOAA and the Department of the Interior will distribute the remaining $300 million as they see fit, for projects that “meet the other requirements of the (35-page) Framework Agreement” and are “approved by the Trustee Council comprised of all the natural resource trustees.”  Sure, it’ll bring some cash to their economy as people are paid to take on the cosmetics of the coast.  But that doesn’t do a  thing for the water itself.

Once again, out of sight is out of mind.   The only aspects that this deal will attend to are the ones that humans can readily see, the ones that are an eyesore to residents and, more importantly, tourist visitors.  But that’s not where the majority of the damage is being done.   Ever the politician, Salizar claims “This milestone agreement will allow us to jump-start restoration projects that will bring Gulf Coast marshes, wetlands, and wildlife habitat back to health after the damage they suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill.”  No, Mr. Secretary, it will not.  You can try to terraform the shoreline til the sea-cows come home, and that won’t stop the poisoning that the oil and Corexit have been doing for a year, now, and will CONTINUE to do until they are removed from the Gulf.

Ken Salizar isn’t the only one with such low expectations and short-sighted perspectives.  Trudy Fisher, Mississippi Trustee and Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said “Since the day of the oil spill, our goals have been to make Mississippi whole and to assure that our coastal areas completely recover…”  The coast isn’t the problem.  The waters off the coast are.   Either a demonstrated understanding of the nature of the problem is lacking, or we’re back to the Dog and Pony Show, politics as usual, while the Gulf withers and dies.

People will get work.  The shorelines will one day look pretty again.  But the death and destruction of offshore oil and oil-burying solvents marches on.  Our very existence, and that of all of the other creatures in the sea, depends on our willingness and ability to clean up after ourselves.  Put on the Dog and Pony Show all you want, but the REAL issues in the Gulf’s waters remain.  We used to think the Gulf waters should have a Skull & Crossbones on them, to warn people of the dangers that lie beneath.   If they are going to continue to ignore the presence of the oil and Corexit while tidying the flower boxes at the window, maybe we should just go ahead and set up a big tombstone instead.

What do you think: Does this represent real progress in the Gulf oil spill cleanup?