Sunday, May 2, 2010

America’s sea threatened

The strong south winds and high tides that pushed water into saltmarshes and flooded local roads roads today add to the oil spill’s threat.

Oil erupting into the Gulf of Mexico - the reports and images tighten my chest as if I were sitting at the bedside of a terminally ill loved one. Facebook friends are already reporting the strong smell of oil in their Ocean Springs, MS, neighborhoods. While not forgetting the loss of life as a result of the oil platform disaster, my thoughts also turn to the researchers who were colleagues during my years at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs.

A number of them pioneered marine biological research in the northern Gulf of Mexico. All are passionate about their scientific investigations of the plants, animals and processes occurring in the Gulf.

I caught up with marine biologist Jim Franks, one of those GCRL pioneers, by phone this afternoon. Along with his research on cobia, Atlantic blue marlin, yellow-fin tuna, wahoo and whale sharks to name a few, Jim and the GCRL team have been examining the role of Sargassum, a floating brown algae, as a nursery area for oceanic pelagic fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Media reports I have heard focused on the estuarine nursery habitats, but I have heard nothing about the open Gulf nursery areas of oceanic pelagic fishes.

“I’m sure the spill will have an effect on those areas,” Jim said. “The high seas and the weather have prevented us from getting near-time samples.” The regret in his voice was evident.

My former boss and another researcher were on local TV last night, reporting on the Lab’s near-time sampling of critical near-shore areas, a necessary step to building a biological picture of conditions just prior to the oil’s arrival here.

An after-lunch drive that husband Walter and I took along Front Beach here today hammered home how Mother Nature is likely to heighten the impact of the oil spill’s arrival. The combination of high tides and strong winds from the south had already pushed water high into areas of saltmarsh and had flooded several local streets. Shades of  Katrina, wondering how our world will have changed by tomorrow.


  1. The new oil spill sickens me. I feel so bad for all of the marine life--and for us. Nothing good will come out of it for sure...Kathy

  2. What a terribly sad situation. We sure make a mess of things.