The Deepwater Horizon rig continues to uncontrollably spew 200,000 gallons per day of oil into the Gulf of Mexico with the possibility of this environmental catastrophe not ending until August. BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, launched a now-proven unsuccessful campaign a few years ago to re-brand itself as an environmentally-friendly company, with a new name (and the ironic slogan "Beyond Petroleum") but the same behaviors. BP spent nearly $16 million lobbying Washington last year with key political players from both parties at its side. The company is now fending off accusations that it failed to abide by safety provisions, while it tries to outmaneuver paying massive liability charges. Whatever the company wants to call itself will do little to change the consequences of its actions. With no relief in sight, the oil rig disaster is a somber reminder in dramatic, real time that our environmental behaviors and policies, which helped to create this mess, are out of whack.
It is the residents of the Gulf region who will lose the most and suffer for many years to come. This includes the families of the oil rig workers who tragically died and the fishermen and others who rely on the Gulf for their economic survival. I'm also referring to the fish, birds, marine mammals -- many of whom are endangered species -- that are critical to the health of the region, whose are now struggling to survive. The Gulf of Mexico is already downstream from the interior U.S.' garbage, toxic run-off and other waste, creating a gigantic area commonly known as a 'Dead Zone.' Add in a robust and aggressive fishing industry, so it wasn't the easiest place for endangered species to survive. And with the millions of gallons of crude oil now in the mix, you've turned the Gulf into a potential morgue.
As the oil continues to creep towards Gulf coastlines, its full impact might not be known for a long time, but here are some profiles of the impacts on some endangered species. Get a complete list of the region's endangered species.
1. Turtles: Five of the world's seven endangered turtles are found in the Gulf of Mexico. The turtles currently at risk are Kemp's ridley, Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback with nearly 200 already dead. Sadly, the Gulf's entire population of Kemp's ridley turtles is currently migrating along the Louisiana coast towards Texas and Mexico, straight through the heart of the spill.
2. Blue fin tuna: The oil spill happens to be on top of the breeding ground for the Blue fin tuna whose stocks have already been depleted by 90 percent since the 1970s. The spill doesn't bode well for this fish that was already barely hanging on.
3. Marine Mammals: Sperm whales and manatees are coming into contact with the oil frequently as they must come to the surface to breathe. They can also experience ulcers, eye and skin lesions, congested lungs, burns, decreased body mass and poisoning from the oil and the chemicals applied to control the spill.
4. Brown pelicans: These birds are threatened with hypothermia when the oil destroys the insulation of their feathers.
5. Least Terns: The largest colony for these endangered birds is located in the Gulf and is severely threatened.
Despite this depressing situation, you can make a big difference to help the situation.
1. Tell the Obama Administration you oppose off-shore oil drilling.
3. Get involved with endangered species protection.
5. Learn more about the Humane Society of the U.S.' efforts to protect marine mammals.
6. Cut your oil use.
7. View and share your pictures from the spill on Google maps.