The following update is from Susan Cavanagh, Media Director for Greenpeace US, currently in Louisiana…
The world’s media are here (but I guess you already knew that) on the southern-most tip of Louisiana in a marina car park surrounded by water and shrimp boats.
The lady in the marina store knows the family of one of the workers who died. All of the fishermen here are dumbfounded by the whole thing and kind of laugh with that world-weariness of people who have nothing else left to do. They all talk about Hurricane Katrina and now this — as if somehow the two events are connected. And in fact they are, courtesy of the oil industry – more intense and more frequent storms due to global warming AND oil spills. Ground zero, here.
The Governor of Louisiana has lifted the limit on shrimp so fishermen can take as many before the oil hits their beds. We’re not sure that’s the message we want folks to take away from this tragedy — get it before it’s gone. But that gives you some idea of just how dire are the forecasts for the region’s economy.
Meanwhile BP is hiring fishermen to help in the cleanup, so they can have a firsthand view of the death of their fishing grounds, kind of like attending your own funeral.
The spill/slick is starting to come into the bayous and wetlands along the coast. This environment is not the same sandy beaches and rocks we’ve seen in other oil clean-ups. Once that oil gets into the wetlands — and it will — it will be there for a long, long time.
There are currents active in the gulf, but the wind is the determining factor with the oil lying on the surface. Right now it’s blowing pretty hard, about a four-foot chop just off the coast. It’s causing the booms in the water to break apart and waves are breaking over the top of the booms that are intact.
Authorities say that they are laying thousands of feet of booms in the most sensitive areas. We’ve just heard back from the photographer we hired for today that one very sensitive nesting area is boomless - completely unprotected, and he wasn’t even looking hard.
Shrimpers, fisherfolk, locals, the world’s media, Greenpeace, and Louisiana, all share an unspoken point of view – it’s only just begun.