Friday, June 11, 2010

Why the BP oil spill is just another thing for the Caribbean to worry about.

With so much worry in the world about the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many people are searching for answers about how this will effect us where we live. Of course there are answers for questions like these, but not the ones we want and not specific enough to quell our fears.
The 2-mile-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. By the time the well was brought under control in March, 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the bay. The Ixtoc I spill is currently #2 on the all-time list of largest oil spills of all time.
Those of you who spent much time on beaches in the eary 80s will remember pleny of oil and "tar" as we all called it back then drifting ashore. There seems to be many theories about where this oil came from, but I am pretty sure that much of it was from that huge Mexican spill. Although we are not hearing much about the prospect of oil from the new BP gulf spill getting to our Caribbean shores, it is almost inevitable that some will arrive here. However, by the time it does, it will have passed along so many thousands of miles of coastline that we may only get small amounts. This all could depend on what happens with winds and currents in this years hurricane season. For more info on that (if you have time to read about the atlantic currents) you can read the blog I did three years ago about "flotsam and jetsam". Click here.
If you don't have time you can figure it out from this image showing atlantic currents:

This is just some info i suppose to help you figure out why this BP oil spill is also very bad for us all. Notice the red lines in the Gulf of Mexico above meeting up with the "gulf stream" and then slowying making their way around the northern Atlantic and finally back to and through the Caribbean. Keep in mind that we get a huge variety of migratory species of birds, fish and marine mammals that will pass through the spills track too. Anyway, as if the spill wasn't bad enough, we have to worry about all the other stuff damaging our marine ecosystems. Recently there was an article about a huge coral reef bleaching event predicted for this summer (along with the prediction of hurricanes). Click here for that article. Sadly, this one doesn't fill me with dread because unfortunately we don't have much coral left in the eastern Caribbean to be killed off. Here in Antigua the wholesale wiping out of fish from the shallow water reef systems has all but prevented any coral from making a comeback since the first big hurricane in 1989, let along the big ones of the 90s. Our Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are not protected at all so the reefs are in terrible shape. While our government and our Fisheries dept. drag their heels on getting the MPAs protected properly by some sort of structured management, people still can enjoy setting gill nets and spear fishing within reef systems where the last of the parrot fish and other herbivors are found in small numbers and sizes. We shouldn't rely on our island government to spring into action. Organizations like the Antigua Hotels and Touist Association should learn more about the reefs and related marine systems as well as the problems associated with getting these MPAs off the ground. The churches should be involved too. They should be trying to get these areas managed. Caribbean Beach Tourism as i like to call it which helps keep this small nation afloat financially will be nothing but a dream of a bunch of old hotelliers without the realization that healthy marine eco systems are vital for healthy tourism. I could go on and on, but it won't do much good. For now, if you can swallow any more, please have a look at this video which shows very simply why areas just like our offshore habitats turned to "slime" in other islands not too far away. Remember it's not all bad news, if you didn't get to see the last video i blogged about MPAs please come back and click this link after seeing the video below.

EDIT 17/6/10
I found this video which shows more of what i was saying in this blog: