FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO–At the Waffle House restaurant across the street from the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, locals at the breakfast counter were reacting to articles in the morning Sun Herald newspaper.
Two stories were getting most of the attention–a new report that over in Pascagoula thousands of dead baitfish were found on the surface of tributaries of Bayou Creek and one on 35 dead sea turtles that have washed to shore since April 30.
Hearing that the National Marine Fisheries Service is more inclined to blame the turtle deaths on shrimpers than on the BP oil spill that was continuing to gush into the Gulf, a waffle-eating boat crewman responded this way: “Sheeitttt!”
Marine Fisheries scientists conducted extensive necropsies on ten of the turtles. Oil isn’t ruled out, but the fact fish were found in their stomachs means they were near a readily available source. Turtles do not swim fast enough to consume many fish.
So, the federal investigation is looking at where the fish and shrimp boats that were involved in the emergency shrimp season killed the turtles by so-called turtle excluders on the their nets.
“Blame the shrimp boats!” another Waffle House customer added. He also noted that the emergency season was caused by the BP oil spill. “So go figure,” he added.
Kemp’s ridley turtles have been on the federal Endangered Species list since the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the dead baitfishes were showing up only a couple blocks from Pascagoula’s waterfront sand beach. Mayor Robbie Maxwell said it was not known if the kill was oil spill-related. Fire Chief Robert O’Sullivan said baitfish have died before when oxygen levels are low, but he’s never seen a large kill.
State marine and environmental officials checked coastal waters, but did not find any dead marine life.
With much hope riding on its plan to lower a containment vessel on the oil gushing from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, BP is also holding meetings with various community groups on shore.
It held meetings with boat captains in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis. A second Biloxi meeting is scheduled for today.
The purpose of the meetings is to communicate to the owners of vessels that may be needed to help clean up oil that reaches the shore. The BP/boat owner relationship is complicated by the numerous lawsuits that are now expected.
Gulf state trial attorneys are filling the airwaves and newspapers with advertisements soliciting for clients. BP hands out a thick proposed contract for boat owners to share with their attorneys.
BP is also meeting with the Gulf Coast’s large population of Vietnamese fishing families.