$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?

Need Help with Safety Equipment

For years, Protect The Ocean survived by donating our time and effort. Often this meant putting off our jobs, the way we make a living, because the events in the world were simply too important to put off. Like last summer, when Protect The Ocean figured out why BP was using Corexit instead of any of the less harmful cleanup agents. For over a month straight, JT worked on nothing but the Gulf. Even after that month, about half of his time for the rest of the summer was dedicated to stopping the use of this deadly solvent.

The SV Balance, a circumnavigation veteran.

We have a ship now, a 41’ bluewater sailboat that will be the foundation for research out in the middle of the Gulf, in the Pacific Gyre, and beyond. We’ll be working cooperatively with other organizations, sharing the information gathered, and showing the world the true condition of our precious oceans. Why a sailboat? She’ll use nearly no fuel, cost far less to operate, and not hurt whales or dolphins along the way.   If possible, we’ll equip her with an electric motor and solar panels as well.  Whenever possible, it’s important that we lead by example.

Saving the ocean is a pretty tall order. There are lots of projects, things to do, from sampling the waters for toxins, to teaching indigenous people to fish with other forms of bait instead of killing endangered freshwater dolphins. And along the way, we’ll free sea turtles that have gotten entangled in nets, help other organizations as we can, and do our best to be model environmental citizens.

We need your help. Your donations will fund the safety equipment needed, things like an EPIRB (so that if there’s an emergency in the middle of the ocean we can signal for help,) a life boat, an onboard dive compressor, a watermaker, better video equipment… the many things that go into a successful campaign for the oceans.

We’re not a big organization. We talk in terms of hundreds and thousands, not tens of millions of dollars. And we can get a lot done with a little bit of money.  Not everyone understands how important the oceans are. Far too many people are saying Somebody ought to do something. We know that we are all that “Somebody.” Please give what you can. Help us protect the ocean. By protecting the ocean, we bring life and health to ourselves.

NOTE: Please use the pull-down menu below to select how much you’re willing to give to help us with this very worthy campaign.

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70 Miles of Flotsam & Radioactive Waste Dumped into the Pacific

You’d pretty much have to have been living on some other planet to be unaware of the 9-point earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked northern Japan a few weeks ago.  We won’t be boring you with rehashes of that tragic event.  But we do want to fill you in on the latest aftermath.  For example, there’s now a flotsam island some 70 miles long floating out into the Pacific, made up of houses, and plastics, bodies and cars, polluting as it goes, and creating dangerous hazards in the shipping lanes.  The U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet is keeping an eye on this latest mess, and describes that it covers more than 2.2 million square feet of ocean surface.  Experts estimate that the rubbish may take as much as two years to hit Hawaii.  It may be another year after that before it hits the U.S. West Coast.  Meanwhile, there’s a very real threat to ships large and small of hulls being breached, props being fouled, and marine mammals and other ocean creatures being adversely affected by this huge island of rubble.

This current will bring cars, homes, bodies, furniture and other debris to our shores.

While we’re on it, did you know that the Japanese government elected to dump over 11 milion liters (2.5 million gallons) of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean?  Yep, water that’s 500 times more radioactive than the legal limit was unceremoniously poured into the world’s oceans.  Just a couple days later, radioactive fish were found some 50 miles offshore.  “We had no choice,” they claim.  Sure ya did.  Barrel it up and bury it in YOUR back yard, until a combined effort of Japan and the rest of the world figures out what to do with it.  But because they didn’t want it in their back yard, they poured it into ours?  All due sympathy to the people of Japan during this tragedy, but it’s still not OUR nuclear plants that are melting down.  Junichi Matsumoto, of Japan’s TEPCO makes an attempt to justify the choice, saying “We think releasing water with low levels of radiation is preferable to allowing water with high levels of radiation to be released into the environment.”  That may be true, Mr. Matsumoto, but it wasn’t a binary situation.  You didn’t have to make that choice.  Nice try, but we’re not quite that lacking in logic.  Matsumoto claims that the urgency was from a leak they thought was happening.  But none of that stopped them from bottling the radioactive water and keeping it out of the Pacific.  Using the ocean as one’s dumping ground is never appropriate, but radioactive wastes are even more dangerous.  Potential results range from giving cancer to sea mammals and fish, to causing genetic mutations that could literally alter the entire food chain’s balances.

Taking this action at all was unacceptable.  Doing so without conferring with the rest of the world was simply too typical of the Japanese perspective that suggests the world exists for them to exploit anywhere and any way that they like.  We are not against the Japanese people.  We have a number of friends in and from Japan, and feel deeply for their circumstances.   That said, the nation of Japan continues to act with blatant disregard for marine life.  The nation issues permits to kill over a thousand whales each year for “research”, (not including the untold thousands of dolphins which need no permit.)  This whale hunting and killing takes place in Antarctic waters long ago set aside as marine sanctuary by the entire world.  They go there, we have been told, because the waters are cleaner, so the whale flesh will have less mercury.

The earthquake in Japan, and the aftermath which continues, is just one example of the ways in which a relatively small local event can have global repercussions.  We must, as a species, shift our perspective, our way of looking at the oceans.   This planet cannot survive (nor can we) if we continue to use it as our dumping grounds.