Oil Spotted on Gulf Surface Near Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Oil seen off Louisiana, June 2011

UPDATE 6/9/11: Test results from a National Wildlife Federation sample indicate the oil is NOT stirred-up BP oil, but rather a fresh spill.

Staffers in the National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana office were tipped off to newly-seen weathered oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico today. It’s not clear yet how much oil is on the surface or where it came from, but early indications point to sunken BP oil that’s been stirred up:

The oil was spotted two miles east-southeast from Baptiste Collete, which is across the Mississippi River from Venice, according to [Plaquemines Parish President Billy] Nungesser, by a charter fishing captain. The parish’s port vessel is en route to the where the oil was reported, said Nungesser.

The Coast Guard is sending up a helicopter to fly over the area, according to Petty Officer Steve Lehmann.

“It looks like the same oil that has been surfacing in Bay Jimmy,” said Nungesser, who was sent pictures of the oil early Wednesday morning. “It doesn’t look like new, fresh oil.”

We’re eager to hear what the Coast Guard finds and will keep you updated here at Wildlife Promise. But the reports do fit predictions since the first days of the Gulf oil disaster that while millions of gallons of chemical “dispersant” helped put the BP oil out of sight, much of it still lurks below.

We know weathered BP oil still sits on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico and will for years or even decades to come,” says Dr. Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation senior scientist who viewed oil in Gulf marshes in April. Doug has been also been monitoring continuing higher rates of death for Gulf dolphins and sea turtles. “Even as coastal wetlands and ecosystems remain vulnerable to stirred-up BP oil, Congress has still not dedicated BP fines and penalties to restoration of the Gulf.”

Some additional information on today’s reports of oil from SkyTruth:

That would put it in Buras Bayou, on the edge of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge where a Chevron/BP pipeline spilled 18,000 gallons of crude oil in early April 2010, causing widespread contamination.  There is no word yet on the possible source of the latest oil slick.

Two pollution reports were submitted to the National Response Center at 10:17 am on June 6 (report #978778) and again at 10:58 am yesterday morning (report #978893) indicating small amounts of oil spilled from a platform operated by Helis Oil and Gas Company about 20 miles to the northwest. We don’t know if this is the source of the slick being reported today near Venice. Yesterday afternoon’s low-resolution MODIS satellite imagery doesn’t indicate anything unusual in that area.  We’ll keep looking.

Speak Up for Gulf Restoration

Please take a moment right now to ask your members of Congress to pass oil disaster response legislation that devotes fines and penalties to coastal wetlands restoration.

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s response to the Gulf oil disaster at NWF.org/OilSpill.