The Forgotten Island Destroyed by the Gulf Oil Spill

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Environment, Environmental Hazards, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Vic Bishop | Waking Times

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent massive oil spill has become old news, and very little consideration is given to what the disaster still means for wildlife and the sensitive ecosystems of coastal Louisiana. It’s long been back to business as usual for British Petroleum (BP), but for conservationists and locals of the region, the damage to Cat Island will never be forgotten.

A former wildlife refuge and Pelican rookery, Cat Island was a mere 5.5 acre land mass, yet it was home to a number of species of rare and migratory birds who would return each year to hatch the next generation. After the gulf oil spill, millions of gallons of crude oil bombarded the island, and efforts to prevent oil from drenching the mangroves and delicate sand beaches of Cat Island proved futile.

The remains of Cat Island. Image Source

The islands of Cat Bay lay isolated, several miles from any other land mass, in an area that is sinking into the gulf. Although the islands were eroding before the spill, Plaquemines Parish government blames oil damage for hastening their demise. Far too small and isolated to play any role in hurricane protection, the islands were home to thousands of nesting birds, including pelicans, egrets, tricolored herons and various shore birds.

Cat Island Before After

The Executive Director of the Audubon Society in Louisiana remarked on the significance of this loss.

“Cat Island was actually one of the 4 largest rookeries in Louisiana for brown pelicans, snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, listeners and a variety of other shorebirds, so now its just a fragile remnant of what it was.

Having this loss from sea level rise from natural erosion and to be exacerbated by the BP oil spill, to me, it really is in a way the canary in the coal mine for the habitats that are going to be threatened in the next couple decades.” ~Doug Meffert, Executive Director, Audubon Louisiana.

Describing the island as it was before the oil spill, local government official, P.J. Hahn offered this perspective:

“In 2010 prior to the oil spill, this was a pristine island with about 8 foot mangroves. It was roughly around 5 and a half, almost six acres. this was ideal nesting ground for migratory birds in the wintertime looking for places to nest for the spring. When the oil spill hit these little islands were here to greet the oil.

Us wildlife and fishery studies show that chicks when they’re born will imprint to these islands so every year they return to the same place they were born to breed and nest again. The sturdy also shows that when the birds come back here if the island gone, they don’t go off and breed somewhere else, they just don’t breed. So, we’re losing generation after generation of birds.

We even had some rare and endangered birds that were actually nesting out here, and today nothing, they’re all gone.” ~P.J. Hahn, Former Coastal Zone Director, Plaquemines Parish Government.

Read the rest of the article here.

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