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Trip to the Coast-June 11
By Randy Lanctot, Executive Director, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
I made another visit to the coast Friday (June 11), this time to Grand Isle to ride out to Queen Bess and Cat Islands with a NBC News crew to check out the condition of the brown pelicans and other birds nesting there, a few days after the first big swath of oil came in from the Macondo 252 oil well blowout. This time of year a trip to Grand Isle or the Fourchon Beach for me is usually to fish. So many times I have made that run down Highway 1, racing on just a few hours' sleep to beat the sunrise to the surf. I recounted those times as I headed south last Friday morning with the sky brightening and the aroma of marsh and salt water filling the truck. On the beach, I would ease out to the first sandbar, ripping a top-water in the troughs between the waves where a big spec (speckled trout/spotted weakfish) would inhale, roll and run. Nothing but pure joy can describe the feeling. There I was once again, grinning, talking out loud to the fish, the pelicans, and me.
Not this time. The fishing is closed and the surf is full of oil. Even if you could fish, and the surf invited with no slick or sheen, getting your feet coated with the sticky, smelly gunk hiding on the bottom below the waves would surely deter your ambition for a fish fry. What a mess!
On both Queen Bess and Cat Island we found apparent near-normalcy as hundreds of brown pelicans and other birds roosted and tended to their chicks, some of which were almost fully grown. The Islands were surrounded by boom and were being monitored by biologists from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. The interviewer asked what will happen to the eggs or chicks if the parents are oiled and either die or have to be captured, cleaned and released hundreds of miles away. The question was easy to answer, but the answer was a hard one to accept.
I queried the media folks on why they did not seek out the biologists and habitat managers employed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries for interviews about the wildlife and the long-term view for the habitat being affected by the oil. They are the experts on brown pelicans and other fish and wildlife resources here in our state. It's not just a job for most of them and I can think of no better sources of accurate information on these matters. I received no good answer.