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Habitat Destroyed by Oil in Fragile Louisiana Wetlands

In Louisiana wetlands, huge flocks of birds are gone, schools of fish have virtually disappeared, and shoreline vegetation is dead and dying. A day collecting evidence of the wetlands destruction with the Gulf Sea Turtle Action Team was revealing and heartbreaking.

The scenes seen here are strong evidence that sea turtle habitat has been destroyed throughout much of their habitat in Gulf waters off Louisiana, which is well known to be a primary foraging areas for several species of endangered sea turtles. We confirmed that oil mats are sinking and smothering what was once endangered species habitat.

Grasses exposed to the oil are now coated brown and black, and areas that have neither been protected by oil booms or part of cleanup efforts are mostly dead by now.

We landed our boat on a stretch of beach not cleaned by BP crews and low tide and were devastated by the impact. Oil mats 4 to 6 inches thick were seen in the lower intertidal areas. Vegetation crucial to holding the entire barrier island in place was dead.

I focused half an hour of effort of sea turtle habitat restoration while a professional film and photography team documented the destruction. Plastic debris has killed countless sea turtles in the open ocean, and removing it from beaches is a simple was we can improve their habitat. This remote Gulf beach was inundated with plastic. Standing on the high tide dunes I could reach a plastic bottle to both my left and right sides without moving. Once I found a derelict cooler, I had even more ability to haul out this plastic debris. Much of it was oiled, and it was properly disposed of at the BP run marina site when we landed at the end of the day.