Oil Spill Starting To Impact Gulf Islands National Seashore

A Northern gannet that had come in contact with oil was rescued late last week at Gulf Islands National Seashore. The bottom photo shows the boom placed around Cat Island to try to keep oil off its beaches. NPS photos.

Impacts from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are starting to be seen at Gulf Islands National Seashore, where some birds have come in contact with the oil and tarballs are being spotted in some areas.

Late last week a Northern gannet was rescued for cleaning on West Ship Island by National Park Service staff and partners, and crews are reporting some tarballs from Okaloosa County, Florida, on west, including along some of the park's barrier islands. Visitors who spot tarballs are being asked to report the finds to park staff, and not to pick them up.

None of the other park units along the Gulf of Mexico shorelines has reported any impacts from the millions of gallons of oil spewing into the gulf's waters from the oil rig disaster. All, however, are continuing to monitor their waters and beaches. At the same time, the Park Service notes that all units are open for business and park programs are continuing as scheduled.

Boaters are being urged by the Park Service not to anchor to booms or run them over, as those actions can cause them to pop and sink. "Opening or removing these booms may expose the sensitive areas they are protecting to environmental harm. You can easily access the islands by traveling around the booms," notes the Gulf Islands staff. "Boaters are also requested to report sightings of broken, disconnected, or adrift boom; and encouraged to keep their distance from boom especially at night and in conditions of restricted visibility."

Additionally, the Public Health Service, working with the Environmental Protection Agency, has set up air quality monitoring stations on West Ship Island to check for the presence of harmful volatile compounds. This is being done to ensure the park has the information it needs to protect the public's health while allowing for recreational opportunities.