Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dead Penguins v. Gulf Spill: What Can We Do?

Today I was reading through online news sites and I came across a story about dead penguins washing up on the shore of Brazil. This got my mind turning towards the death and destruction of wildlife in the Gulf region of the United States. Now I consider myself a friend to the animals (I don’t wear fur or condone animal testing – but I do eat meat) and I always seem to find myself drawn to stories about nature and animals in need. The main idea of the article is that scientists believe it is most likely overfishing that is leading to the death of the penguins. The fish and squid they feed on are becoming scarce.

My concerns here are two-fold. If it is indeed overfishing that is killing these flightless birds, then what is going to happen to the remaining wildlife in the Gulf, those animals that have not been killed by the spill? This region was already heavily relied upon as a source of great quantities of seafood for the United States and the rest of the world. What is to happen now when there isn’t enough seafood to go around, when people can no longer make their living in the trade they knew and worked so hard to build? If certain areas are deemed safe for fishing but others are not, then wont there be a situation of not enough food here for the wildlife? What is going to happen now if fish are affected by the spill and are deemed unsafe for human consumption? Further, what is going to happen to the other animals whose main source of nourishment are these fish that have been affected?

I was doing some reading on the estimated death tolls for wildlife in the Gulf region since the spill and found the numbers to be nauseating. The Fish and Wildlife Service webpage has created a list of all the dead wildlife found in the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) as well as those collected on the water since the spill. The website has listed 62 dead mammals, which includes dolphins, 478 dead sea turtles and 2,333 collected dead birds since the spill occurred three months ago.

These numbers disturbed me beyond belief. I had known that the devastation was widespread but these numbers truly appear staggering when listed together. This leads into my second concern about the news story on the dead penguins washing ashore. If it is over fishing that is causing the death of these penguins than is there something that can be done to fish in different areas and leave more fish for the animals to consume? Or, since the oceans belong to everybody in the world, is this now not even a possibility due to the serious blow that the Gulf of Mexico has suffered?

Something else that concerns me is the lack of focus that people seem to be able to devote to one serious issue at a time. While I am thoroughly upset by the dead penguins I still think that the focus right now should be the oil crisis. I understand that the United States is not the center of the world and that’s why Americans get a bad rep from the rest of the world, but this is being called the worst spill in history and this disaster will affect people everywhere. This deserves widespread attention.

Not only are there endless stories about what is happening to the fishing industry, but I often read articles about the oil that has washed up on the beaches in the Gulf States and how this effecting the morale of those who live there. Yet we can’t “otherise” this spill. It is effecting everyone and I do think that focus needs to be spent figuring out how to appropriately clean the area. Serious attention also needs to be placed on ensuring that a spill like this never occurs again because humans have caused this terrible disaster to the environment and we need to learn that we have limited resources here, we can’t allow for such quick destruction of what little we have to work with.

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