Posted by: Martin Scherer | 22/04/2011

Gulf of Mexico – how is it today?

One year and a number of reports and documentaries are emerging. On this side of the pond, the BBC series “Costing the Earth”, has taken rather shame-faced look at the Gulf and BP.

Monte Graham of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama’s Marine Science Institution, reports the main damaged to the Gulf today is economic, caused by exaggerated news, media reports and blogs that continue to away tourists and visitors. Let’s hope this blog can be one that starts to correct that damage.

Environmental effects

The Marine Science Institution reports that

– The sea and beaches are clean.

– Fish stocks are up 25 to 30%

– Shrimp stocks are up 100 to 200%

– Dolphin levels are normal but for greater loss of young dolphin probably caused by the shock of cold river water into the Gulf caused by the unusually cold winter.

– Sting ray levels are normal.

The ban on fishing and shrimping has allowed stocks to recover to the highest levels since records began a generation ago. Both survived the oil spill without substantial damage.

What happened to the oil and how much is left.

Most estimate half has gone, through evaporation, microbes eating it, and dispersants. Most conclude that dispersants did more damage than good.

That remaining is at deep sea level and most assume it will be dispersed by microbe consumption and evaporation. A small amount may wash ashore in tar balls and that BP will have to collect.

Microbes are the bottom of the food chain, so one might expect increased shrimp and fish stocks for years to come.

What are the long term effects?

No one knows. The effects of the 1959 Torrey Canyon disaster are still being felt. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, populations of various ocean animals were affected and some may still be. Three years after Exxon Valdez, the Pacific herring population collapses, but no one really knows if that is due to oil or other natural factors.

Both previous disasters spilled heavier oil closer to beaches. The Gulf disaster was lighter oil much further away. The long-term effects may not be as disastrous as feared

Economic effects

Fishermen were compensated for loss of their industry and many earned additional sums from BP working to clean and protect the coastline. Whilst abundant stocks now exist the fear of polluted fish and shrimp will make it difficult to sell either fresh or in restaurants.

Most Gulf States, except Florida, continue to suffer from the loss of tourism and that loss is attributed to inaccurate and exaggerated media reporting that continues in the blogger sphere. Much of the media coverage was driven by inaccurate and politicians exaggerated claims.

BP continues to compensate the fishing and tourist industry, but many consider the compensation inadequate. The greatest help for the tourist industry today can only come from accurate media reports that the gulf is clean, safe, and open for business.

Ironically, Florida has had a bumper tourist year, probably benefitting from other Gulf state losses and two successive cold winters across mainland States. Gulf state losses may be equally attributable to the cold winter.

There are wider economic effects. BP shares form a significant part of pension portfolios in both the US and UK. Collapse in BP shares and dividends adversely affect peoples’ pensions.

The US government coffers will gain substantially from fines imposed on BP, but their gain will be at the cost of pensioners. With substantial reduction in BP profit, US tax revenues will suffer.

Judgement on BP.

US Government agencies report that BP’s $20 billion action in protecting and cleaning beaches and compensation has been and continues to be commendable.

Conclusion

This may not be the conclusion environmentalists, anti-business lobby want to hear, but it is the conclusion the gulf economy and its people need to be heard.

The environmental disaster has not been as great as feared. The sea is clean to swim, and dolphins continue to delight rising above the waves. The beaches clean to walk and play. The fishing is even greater, and delightful to eat in wonderful restaurants. The locals welcome is even warmer, if that is possible in the famous hospitality, and there are amazing hotel bargains for tourists. Be the first back and enjoy.

The panic and knee jerk reactions must stop. Negative journalists and bloggers with exaggerated claims must recognise they are now part of the problem, not the solution.

Monte Graham, Alabama’s Marine Science Institution, said, “It takes a disaster to learn from a disaster.” We must do that. The oil spill must be monitored for decades to come. The oil industry must stay and learn, not run away to commit similar acts in other parts of the world. The causes must be uncovered. Politicians must enact new laws, where there is clear neglect the courts must prosecute and the media must rationally and objectively report.

In the meantime, the Gulf is back open for business, a truly amazing place to holiday, right now the welcome is warmer than ever, and there are some great bargains to be had by those first in line.

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