Gulf Update

I went out last night to Jack Dempsey’s Seafood Restaurant. It’s my local seafood place that’s just down the street from me. Since I live between the Coast Guard Base and the east bank portion of a Marine Base and the ninth ward is the Gateway to the Coastal parishes, I get to hear a lot about what’s going on with the Gulf Spill. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it’s not good. I asked about the oyster plate and there were basically no oysters. I had to settle for the shrimp platter where the shrimp were much smaller than I usually see on plates this time of year. At least there are still some around.

Wednesday night is pretty quiet so it wasn’t hard to get every one in the room to start opening up on the Gulf Spill. A good portion of the folks that eat and work at Jack Dempsey’s have that tell-tell Chalmette accent so you know that some one in there has family that makes a living on a fishing or shrimping boat. You could tell they’re all worried about their livelihoods even if they’re not on the boats any more. Everything from here east is about seafood and the Gulf. I kid you not.

We also decided that Governor Bobby Jindal looks like hell. One of the waitresses wondered if that was intentional because former Mayor Ray Nagin got so much criticism for his vanity aboard AF1 during Hurricane Katrina. Jindal looks like he’s been forgoing his little dab will do ya. He’s also obviously tired. He hasn’t slowed down when giving pressers, however. He still talks faster than any one can follow.

The first topic that came up were the complaints that BP was basically paying the small fishing business less than minimum wage for their boats and their services. This is prime shrimp season so they’re losing a lot more than just a day’s work. It’s also hurting the charter boats that take tourists out for a day’s fishing. Those boat owners and a lot of my neighbors with fishing camps in the area are complaining about their favorite weekend of the year. That’s when they all climb into a boat and compete in the the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo. The father-in-law of my neighbor across the street bought a brand new boat for the occasion and now it’s sitting in his garage indefinitely. Fishing Rodeos are better attended that mass in the coastal parishes.

The Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is the oldest fishing tournament in the country and was founded in 1928.

Raymond Stouder, a Metairie native who won the Bluefish catch category last year, said the event means more to him than the competition.

“Every year we try to get a bunch of us to go down there together, ” Stouder said. “It’s more than just fishing.”

Stouder, who said he tries to fish at least a couple of times a week, said it would be terrible for the state to lose any of its fishing rodeos this year.

“It’s going to be a bad situation, especially for (the) economy down there, ” Stouder said.

If canceled, the Grand Isle Rodeo will join a list of other major fishing rodeos in South Louisiana to be canceled.

The Golden Meadow-Fourchon International Tarpon Rodeo in Port Fourchon has already been canceled because of the spill. That rodeo was scheduled for July 1-3. Jesuit High School’s annual fishing rodeo, scheduled for June 25-26, has also been canceled.

This is just the beginning of how much life is going to change around here. We’re also getting reports that some Fisherman working in the Gulf are reporting they are ill.

One fisherman said he felt like he was going to die over the weekend.”I’ve been coughing up stuff,” Gary Burris said. “Your lungs fill up.”Burris, a longtime fisherman who has worked across the Gulf Coast, said he woke up Sunday night feeling drugged and disoriented.”It was like sniffing gasoline or something, and my ears are still popping,” Burris said. “I’m coughing up stuff. I feel real weak, tingling feelings.”Marine toxicologist Riki Ott said the chemicals used by BP can wreak havoc on a person’s body and even lead to death.”The volatile, organic carbons, they act like a narcotic on the brain,” Ott said. “At high concentrations, what we learned in Exxon Valdez from carcasses of harbor seals and sea otters, it actually fried the brain, (and there were) brain lesions.”

Earlier today, the EPA has ordered BP to use a less toxic dispersant. I posted earlier about the problems seen with Corexit. Finally, the information on it is getting to other people. Here’s some of the latest information on that. EPA head Lisa Jackson spoke about the problems.

Jackson used less glowing language, calling the dispersant “the lesser of two environmental outcomes no one wants to have to deal with. But we also need to be able to answer questions about what’s out there and what’s available for use,” she said Tuesday after a Senate environment committee hearing.

In her testimony, Jackson said the long-term effects of the dispersants on aquatic life are still unknown, and said the EPA would work to ensure that “the dispersants that are used are as non-toxic as possible.”

The agency has been working with manufacturers, BP and with others to get less toxic dispersants to the response site as quickly as possible, Jackson said.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of a House global warming committee, praised Jackson for acting swiftly to address concerns that the dispersant BP chose to use is more toxic than other available chemicals.

“The effect of long-term use of dispersants on the marine ecosystem has not been extensively studied, and we need to act with the utmost of caution,” Markey said.

After hearing complaints from scientists that they were not getting enough information on the spill, the Administration compelled BP to broadcast the gusher and information concerning the conditions in the Gulf on the Web. The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has the live video feed. Much of this is provided by our Coast Guard.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the pictures that were taken at Pass a Loutre by LAGOHSEP and Governor Bobby Jindal’s staff yesterday, please go look. I think you’ll see how bad things are getting down here just from the two I’ve put below. I’m still planning on going down there soon.