NWF Naturalist Reports from Oil Spill Ground Zero

As President Obama prepares to address the nation on the BP oil spill, NWF continues its on-the-ground effort to monitor and report oil spill impacts

06-15-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
Oiled Coast

As part of NWF’s ongoing effort to be the voice of wildlife during the BP oil spill crisis, NWF Naturalist David Mizejewski is spending a week in the Gulf of Mexico pitching in where he can and reporting everything he sees. Joined by the rest of NWF’s on-the-ground response team, David spent Monday, June 14 touring areas devastated by the oil spill.

"I did not expect to see oil as far inland as we did," said David.  "As our boat was leaving to investigate some of the bird nesting areas impacted by the spill, I noticed that oil had seeped into the grasses right outside the marina in Venice. The high tide is bringing oil in much closer than I had realized."

Nowhere for Wildlife To Go

Nearly two months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire and exploded, killing 11 workers and setting off the worst environmental disaster in America’s history. The amorphous slick of oil mixed with chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico, which now threatens Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, has already tarnished miles of irreplaceable wetlands, marshes and beaches along the Louisiana coast.

"The view from the boat was pretty shocking. There is dispersed oil as far as the eye can see. You realize that wildlife simply have nowhere to go. If you are a dolphin, where to do you go? If you are a pelican diving for food, where do you go?"

On his tour of Cat and Queen Bess Islands, David saw nesting pelicans, along with spoonbills, reddish egrets, gulls, and snowy egrets. Several of the pelicans he saw were clearly oiled, and one of the reporters on the boat photographed an oiled spoonbill.

"It's overwhelming. On the water, everything is so big and vast, yet I know I’m seeing only a tiny portion of areas that have been impacted by this disaster."

Emotions Running High

As the region prepares to hear what President Obama will say in his first Oval Office address to the nation, emotions run high among those whose lives have been shattered by the spill.

“Back at the marina I ran into a group of fishermen. I was getting ready to do an interview with CNN, and one of the guys encouraged me to ‘give em an earful.’ These people who make their living on the water are clearly angry and frustrated. At the same time, they were cheering us on for helping get the message out about what his happening down here.”

After a full day on the water, with several interviews under his belt, David and the team made their way back to the marina. When the group noticed a dead stingray floating in the water, they came to the conclusion that any number of things, including oil from the spill, could be responsible for killing the ray. Finally, the captain of the charter boat, an out of work fisherman, offered his opinion: “In all my years on the water, I’ve never seen a dead stingray floating on the water like that.”

David will be sending updates from Louisiana all week, so stay tuned for more firsthand coverage of the oil spill.

You can help wildlife threatened by the oil spill by donating online , making a leadership gift or donating via your mobile phone . Your support will help NWF's on-the-ground volunteer and restoration efforts.
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