What’s killing the birds on Raccoon Island?


I’ll give you a clue: the answer isn’t “oil.” Jerry Moran, a local photographer for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), has captured startling photos of dead nesting birds on Raccoon Island, a protected breeding sanctuary for birds, including skimmers, seagulls and pelicans. What’s causing a stir among environmental groups and others is that these dead birds show no signs of oil on their bodies, trigging concern and questions about cause of death. Sadly, we’re familiar with images of oil-slicked birds fighting for their lives in the wake of oil spills…but we’ve never seen completely oil-free birds washing up dead in numbers on our shores. Moran’s photos were featured Friday night on the local Fox News affiliate in New Orleans http://www.fox8live.com/news/local/story/Sanctuary-under-seige/Aa7-RvR4tE6WGZ-QpK-6vA.cspx

It is my belief and the belief of Marylee Orr, head of LEAN (www.leanweb.org), that the reason for this “mass die off” of birds is dispersed oil and Corexit, the toxic dispersant used by BP to breakup the oil and hide it below the surface in massive underwater plumes. And unfortunately, we’ll be seeing more and more fallout from this unprecedented use of dispersant…more dead birds, dead fish, dead shrimp, dead oysters. Corexit’s impact on the Gulf’s fragile marine life is going to be devastating and long-lasting. As studies are conducted and completed, my guess is we will find that BP’s dispersant use caused widespread environmental damage and that it poses a human health risk above and beyond that caused by the oil itself.

To date, approximately 1.84 million gallons of total dispersant have been applied – 1.07 million on the surface and 771,000 sub-sea. Approximately 577,000 gallons are still stockpiled and available. Subsurface dispersant application was eliminated midday on July 15. According to EPA there has been no new use of dispersants. That offers little comfort to those of us seeing birds killed by dispersant dotting the beaches of Raccoon Island.

Jerry Moran, a native New Orleanian, is an accomplished photographer and artist whose main body of work is concentrated on his passion, the rich culture and heritage of his home, New Orleans, and the State of Louisiana. Moran’s pieces have been featured in magazines, art shows and galleries around the United States, and his iconic work is a fixture in many high end residential developments, restuarants, and private homes around the world. See more of Moran’s photos at www.nativeorleanian.com.

Photos by Jerry Moran ©2010 Native Orleanian Fine Photography.

1 comment

  • I do see a bit of oil on that particular bird. There is also “mousse” on the sand (the orange stain on the beach) – this does come from the dispersed oil.

    A few possibilities: Ingestion of oil. I have witnessed first hand birds drinking oiled water on the beaches. Another possibility is that the Corexit allows for greater absorption of oil through membranes, increasing its toxicity. The thing about Corexit is that, alone, it is just a bit more toxic than your average dish soap. Combined with oil, on the other hand, it will cause some serious problems.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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