Will your family return to the Gulf this summer?

One year after 172 million gallons of oil started spewing into the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are evaluating how the water, its plant life and sea life are recovering.

Their reviews are mixed (surface and beaches look good but what about underneath and long-term), but I am wondering how Atlanta families will rate the recovery. Will they feel safe booking their favorite condos on the Gulf for their summer vacation? Will they return to the Gulf this year?

Here’s what the scientists see going on in the Gulf. From the Associated Press (I am bolding for a quick read):

“Scientists judge the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico as nearly back to normal one year after the BP oil spill, but with glaring blemishes that restrain their optimism about nature’s resiliency, an Associated Press survey of researchers shows.”

“More than three dozen scientists grade the Gulf’s big picture health a 68 on average, using a 1-to-100 scale. What’s remarkable is that that’s just a few points below the 71 the same researchers gave last summer when asked what grade they would give the ecosystem before the spill. And it’s an improvement from the 65 given back in October.”

“At the same time, scientists are worried. They cite significant declines in key health indicators such as the sea floor, dolphins and oysters. In interviews, dozens of Gulf experts emphasized their concerns, pointing to the mysterious deaths of hundreds of young dolphins and turtles, strangely stained crabs and dead patches on the sea floor.”

“The survey results mirror impressions Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gave on the health of the Gulf in an interview with the AP Thursday.”

“The Gulf is ‘much better than people feared, but the jury is out about what the end result will be,’ she said. “It’s premature to conclude that things are good … There are surprises coming up — we’re finding dead baby dolphins.’ “

“Just as it was before the April 20 accident when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, ultimately spewing 172 million gallons of oil, the Gulf continues to be a place of contradictions: The surface looks as if nothing ever happened while potentially big problems are hidden deep below the surface, in hard-to-get-to marshes and in the slow-moving food web. Some may not even be known for years.”

” ‘When considering the entire Gulf of Mexico, I think the natural restoration of the Gulf is back to close to where it was before the spill,’ said Wes Tunnell at Texas A&M University, who wrote a scientific advisory report for the federal arbitrator who is awarding money to residents and businesses because of the oil spill. Tunnell’s grades are typical. He says the Gulf’s overall health before the spill was a 70; he gives it a 69 now.”

“If that pre-spill grade isn’t impressive, it’s because the Gulf has long been an environmental victim— oil from drilling and natural seepage, overfishing, hurricanes and a huge oxygen-depleted dead zone caused by absorbing 40 percent of America’s farm and urban runoff from the Mississippi River.”

“Today, a dozen scientists give the Gulf as good a grade as they did before the spill. One of those is Louisiana State University professor Ed Overton, a veteran of oil spills. He described a recent trip to Gulf Shores, Ala.: ‘I walked a half-mile down the beach and there wasn’t a tar ball in sight. It was as pretty as I’ve ever seen it.’ “

“In the survey, some categories, such as red snapper and king mackerel, even average out to higher grades than before the spill, mostly because months of partial fishing bans have helped populations thrive.”

On the Sea Floor:

“While that sounds good, the average grades for the sea floor plunged from 68 pre-spill to a failing grade of 57 now. Dolphins initially seemed to be OK, but as more carcasses than usual kept washing up — almost 300 since the spill — the grade fell to 66, compared to a pre-spill 75. Oysters, always under siege, dropped 10 points, crabs dropped 6 points. And the overall food web slid from 70 before the spill to 64 now.”

” ‘Everything may be fine in some places, but definitely not fine everywhere,’ said University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye who found dead patches of oiled sea bottom in expeditions near the busted well where 11 men lost their lives. ‘The oil isn’t gone; it’s just not where we can see it.’ “

“Joye said before the oil spill she would have given the sea floor an “A” grade of 90. Now she gives it a 30. Overall, Joye, who has been one of the more hands-on researchers exploring Gulf damage, said its health has plunged from an 80 before the spill to a 50 now, but she was the most pessimistic of the researchers.”

“In five different expeditions, the last one in December, she and her colleagues took 250 cores of the sea floor and travelled 2,600 square miles. She says much of the invisible oil in the water and on the sea bottom has been chemically fingerprinted and traced to the BP spill. She also has pictures of oil-choked bottom-dwelling creatures like crabs and brittle stars — starfish-like critters that are normally bright orange but now are pale and dead.”

In the Marshes:

“This is hidden from view. Eugene Turner, an LSU wetlands scientist, has looked at marshes in Louisiana’s Barataria basin, and found oil buried in the mud and sand.”

” ‘You can’t smell it. You can’t see it. It’s not this big black scum out there, but it’s there,’ Turner said.”

“At this point, the oil is only obvious in a couple of places — with Bay Jimmy the worst-hit. Today, a crust of oil still lines miles of the outer fringe of marsh in the bay, a remote spot deep visited by the occasional fisherman and oil worker.”

“Still, it’s nothing compared to the black gunk stuck on beaches and marshes last summer or the multi-colored slicks so massive they could be tracked by satellite. Those images, along with the pictures of pelicans and seagulls with gobs of oil oozing down their beaks, are now history.”

So what do think of the opposing scientists’ views? Do you have family and friends doing reconnaissance before you book? Have you already booked? Do you plan to vacation in the Gulf this summer?

75 comments Add your comment

JJ

April 20th, 2011
3:00 pm

Apparently someone’s bored and trying to stir something up…

Enemas for Easter

April 20th, 2011
3:05 pm

If you’re unhappy with my remarks, fine. Resorting to insults is childish.

Enemas for Easter

April 20th, 2011
3:06 pm

And to stay on topic, Hilton Head is THE place for the beach.

motherjanegoose

April 20th, 2011
3:40 pm

JJ..when we go to the beach, we never encounter trashy teenagers. We have just figured out when/where to go.

You will not catch me anywhere that is noisier than my own neighborhood…may as well stay home and save the $$$. To me, a vacation at the beach needs to be QUIET. We go other places each summer for culture, such as Boston. Yes, PCB has culture…just not the kind I enjoy.

I will be at the Jersey Shore next week, for a meeting. That, to me, is quite different than Florida. We also went to the beach in Oregon, last summer. It was really beautiful! The beaches in Hawaii are also incredible…some are so remote and quiet…it is amazing.

We have seen Manatees, at the beach in Marco Island and they are fascinating! When the kids were smaller, we went to Hilton Head but I have not been in years.

shaggy

April 20th, 2011
3:42 pm

E for E is a troll that used to post crap here, until TWG got their IP address banned.
They (e for e) will soon be looking for alternative arrangements, i.e., yet another IP address to troll from.

JD

April 20th, 2011
3:46 pm

You can take an all inclusive trip to Jamaica for only $625 per person. 4 nights and 5 days. The beaches there will literally take your breath and the flight is only 1.50 hrs. I have to say it was the best vacation I’ve ever had and will opt for it again when I get a beach craving.

Enemas for Easter

April 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

I’m a troll? I’m not the one tossing the insults around.

I’ve heard horror stories about Jamaica with crime. Is that true?

MomsRule

April 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

I’ve been to Jamaica 4 times, 4 different resorts and beaches. They were the worst vacations we’ve taken. Yes, they have amazing beaches and they also have horribly pushy locals and drug dealers everywhere. And, yes, these people are even on the all inclusive properties.

I don’t enjoy being baggered at every turn by the local people or smelling the weed instead of the ocean breeze because they are a few feet off shore trying to sell to the tourists. Although, my kids did receive a great education on the stupidity of drugs during our last trip.

And, we stayed at very high end properties every time. Still sucked.

Enemas for Easter

April 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

I know a guy who went to Jamaica just so he could buy weed and nothave to smuggle it there.

motherjanegoose

April 20th, 2011
4:37 pm

@ MomsRule…my husband heard they same thing from someone at work.

Lady Strange

April 20th, 2011
4:41 pm

I’m not a beach goer, I prefer the mountains. The only reason to go to the ocean is if I’m going fishing.

MomsRule

April 20th, 2011
4:56 pm

E for E — no doubt! There are many people that enjoy traveling to Jamaica for the ease of indulging. To each their own.

Its just not my thing…and certainly not what I want to be dealing with while at a “family” property. More irritating than the drugs though is just the down right rude pushy locals. Horrible. And, seriously, many of them need to shower. The airports are not enjoyable. ICK

During my first trip to Jamaica, hubby and I went out on a snorkeling excursion. As we are face down in the water some of the guests start getting hit in the head by locals in canoes trying to sell crap. Seriously?!? Where the heck do they think we are holding our cash??

newblogger

April 20th, 2011
5:55 pm

Being from South Alabama, PCB is almost home for me. I’m headed there for a wedding the first weekend in June and will probably stay a few days. Second choice is Tybee-because it’s close to Savannah and that is one of my favorite cities. I think I’ll retire there someday.

ZachsMom

April 20th, 2011
7:30 pm

Can’t wait to get back there!!!

djm_NC

April 20th, 2011
7:49 pm

@shaggy–i am allergic to shellfish (dammit) and i do not get sick when i swim in the ocean.

Kat

April 20th, 2011
8:46 pm

E for E: I know a guy who went to Jamaica just so he could buy weed and nothave to smuggle it there.

What does THAT mean? I’m sorry but your one minor typo has made it impossible for me to discern what you were trying to say…

Kat

April 20th, 2011
8:47 pm

Theresa: JJ and Jeff are trying to get you to provide them with a personal hook-up. Please see to their needs as soon as possible. Thanks!

DB

April 21st, 2011
1:05 am

I was just down there two weeks ago, at the Sandestin resort — it was lovely. Scientists can argue all they want to — when they agree about “global warming”, then I’ll start listening to their various opinions about the Gulf.

DB

April 21st, 2011
1:08 am

Do NOT get me started about Jamaica . . . I love the melting list of a Jamaican accent, and jerk chicken. But the whole island is just one big nasty drug hole.

motherjanegoose

April 21st, 2011
7:05 am

DB…you picked a great time to go. That area of the gulf is lovely, I just do not like the crowds. I spend too much time in them at the airport. When we go to Marco Island, we are typically the only ones in the pool in the complex we visit…low season. We also go to St. Augustine during the low time and love it when it is quiet and we can enjoy the beach without a crowd. I love St.Augustine itself and enjoy the history.

HB

April 21st, 2011
9:58 am

DB, scientists do agree on global warming — 90% say it’s happening. If you ask climate scientists, the ones who are truly experts in this area, the number goes up to 97%.

shaggy

April 21st, 2011
10:39 am

HB,

Yes, you are correct, and I have seen the receding glaciers with my own eyes. The disagreement is on the cause. Glacier National Park might be glacier free in 20 or less years. The equatorial glaciers are shrinking too, and these are not subject to seasonal ebb and flow. The weather is constant there, except for rainy and dry seasons…no season progression.

Is it a continuation of the warm up that followed the last ice age 10,000+ years ago, or is it caused by burning fossil fuels, or is it some of both? It is definately happening. Also, we are not likely to be able to do anything about it, because we might lack the means…it might be ireversible, and we probably lack the determination to act…we love burning stuff.

Dan

April 21st, 2011
12:48 pm

I wonder if CNN is going to reimburse any gulf businesses that lost money due to there henny penny routine last year? The reality is the over sensationalism of the coverage hurt businesses as much or more than the actual oil spill

Dan

April 21st, 2011
1:03 pm

@HB Not sure about percentages of scientists as I suspect nobody has polled them all (or defined scientist for that matter) but your numbers are far higher than I have seen before. However I digress, some % that are verifiable (as opposed to subjective or just plain manufactured) is this CO2 represents .0387% of the atmosphere indeed until environmentalists started looking for a scapegoat it could be found under Other in charts detailing the atmospheric makeup. So starting with .0387% (thats right the real number is .000387) and further acknowledging that only 4% of that is man made. Brings the anthropogenic amount to .00155% of the atmosphere. The natural fluctuations in the concentrations of CO2 and other gasses based on local conditions and weather trends far exceeds that. The notion that so miniscule an amount could have catostrophic consequences is preposterous

justmy2cents

April 21st, 2011
6:20 pm

Re: Jamaica

Hubby and I go every year; yes there are drugs available if you want them ( we don’t) but they have never been pushed on us. We love the beaches and the scuba, and these are always the best vacations we take each year. You guys must be going to the wrong places!!!