Wildlife group: Gulf oil spill still affecting wildlife along Florida’s Suncoast

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A decade after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, dolphins, turtles and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still seriously at risk, according to a report released Tuesday.

I have found the social changes resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) to be fascinating. Most people appear to be staying home, minding their own business, and avoiding human contact either by choice or forced to do so by government regulations. As evidence, there is a groundswell in home improvement projects (just ask the hardware super stores whose profits are soaring). Other people are learning new cooking recipes, surfing the Internet, playing computer games, and watching a ton of television. My brother-in-law tackled a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle while sipping on some rather fine bourbon, and others are getting caught up on their reading. There are even fewer cars on the road, at least down here in Florida. Life has definitely changed since the panic began and the social ramifications are eye-opening. The people who were asked to work from home or have been furloughed are bored, frustrated, and chomping on the bit to get back to work. When our doors finally re-open, we will likely witness a productivity boom the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II. Likewise, children are restless and want to return to school. It is interesting to watch Americans react to the shutdown. No, this is certainly not a vacation or holiday as people are sensitive to their ability to generate income and have become rather restless. One area I found particularly noticeable in neighborhoods is the need for human interaction. First, I have never seen so many people walking or bicycling around the neighborhood, be it alone, as a couple, or with kids and pets. I didn’t realize how many dogs there were in my neighborhood. I also see people walking around who I haven’t seen in a number of years, and frankly, I thought they had moved out of the neighborhood. Most interesting is how people do not hesitate to stop and talk with their neighbors, usually at the end of a driveway or in a front yard. The virus has caused us to become more neighborly, to ask about each other, if everything is okay, and to lend a helping hand when necessary. Kindness and consideration seems to be the order of the day and a renewed sense of neighborly responsibility. Since the restaurants and bars are closed, we are seeing people get-together, not in large parties, but simple get-togethers to talk and even play cards. Maybe bridge and pinochle will finally make a come back. Needless to say, the consumption of alcohol has increased and the stores are doing brisk business. People may not be able to get a drink at night, but if government regulators ever close liquor stores, there would doubtless be an open rebellion. This phenomenon of neighbors becoming reacquainted with their neighbors is healthy for communities as Americans do better when they pull together in times of crisis. This reminds me of the classic 1941 Frank Capra movie, “Meet John Doe,” starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyk, whereby Cooper’s character goes on the radio to promote the concept of “love thy neighbor.” This results in a social movement whereby people renew friendships with their neighbors and help one and other. This becomes the basis for forming “John Doe Clubs” across the nation. It’s an entertaining film with an important message. It’s also vintage Capra. Yes, I am aware we are suppose to practice “social distancing,” and I believe my neighbors understand this. I just find it interesting how the virus has forced people out of hiding and caused them to think about their neighbors, to lend a hand, to pick up and deliver supplies, or some small menial task. It is refreshing to watch. Maybe there is a silver lining to this panic after all. Keep the Faith! P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift! Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies. Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com Like the article? TELL A FRIEND. Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved. Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

The fact that the Gulf hasn’t fully recovered is “hardly surprising given the enormity of the disaster,” said David Muth, director of the Gulf of Mexico Restoration Program for the National Wildlife Federation, which authored the report.

The April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and spewed what the nonprofit environmental organization Ocean Conservancy estimated to be 210 million gallons (795 million liters) of oil before it was capped 87 days later.

What followed, Muth said, was the largest restoration attempt ever in the world, with billions invested or committed to projects to help restore the Gulf and its ecosystem, and another $12 billion to be spent through the year 2032.

“It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to squander,” he said, adding that the projects create jobs.

In the report, the NWF said it believes a large portion of the money should be spent on estuary restoration, where freshwater mixes with the saltwater of the Gulf.

“Projects that restore wetlands, rebuild oyster reefs, protect important habitats from development, and recreate natural patterns of water flow and sediment deposition will help many species harmed by the oil. In addition to helping wildlife, many of these projects will help protect coastal communities from rising seas and extreme weather,” the report said.

During a telephone news conference Tuesday, NWF experts highlighted the plight of a few species of wildlife that were affected by the spill:

— Dolphins. They are still struggling, with many living in oiled areas still ill. About 55 percent had worsening lung disease, 43 percent exhibited abnormal stress responses, 25 percent were underweight, and 19 percent were anemic, the report said. Dolphins born after 2010 aren’t as sick as those that were exposed directly to oil, but they also aren’t as healthy as dolphins born in unoiled areas. Scientists say it could take affected dolphin populations decades to recover.

— Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. Once facing extinction in the 1960s, the sea turtles were largely saved by conservation efforts until the oil spill, which killed as many as 20 percent of adult females. Nesting in the post-spill years has fluctuated.

— Birds. About 12 percent of brown pelicans and 32 percent of the laughing gulls in the northern Gulf died in the oil spill. Approximately 1 million offshore and coastal birds perished.

Scientists estimate the oil killed or seriously hurt “billions, if not trillions” of animals, according to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups in 2019. The government declared a fisheries disaster. BP says its costs have topped $60 billion.

In June of last year, environmental groups sued to challenge a decision by President Donald Trump’s administration that they say weakened critical safety rules created after the spill.