Theodore, Alabama — Oil is coming and time it’s not on Alabama’s side. Residents and businesses along the 53 miles of Alabama shoreline are bracing for the worst while trying to remain optimistic about the future of their beaches. On historic Dauphin Island, volunteers are gathering to formulate wildlife rescue plans.
Dauphin Island is a natural barrier island located three miles due south of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is 14 miles long and is an Audubon Bird Sanctuary home to hundreds of species of birds. Because of the island’s precarious position, officials expect that the shorelines will see the oil before the areas of Mobile Bay and the actual Alabama coastline.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the northern Gulf is home to 21 protected marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, short-finned pilot whales, killer whales and spinner dolphins. Nine of the dolphins are listed as protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Five species of sea turtles are also in peril. The most notable of these sea turtles are the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. This endangered species nests in the western Gulf and is currently at the peak of their nesting season.
Birds like the brown pelican, herons, sandpipers, flycatchers and plover are birds in danger of seeing their food supply and nesting grounds disturbed by the oil.
Sea Point Saw Grass and sea oats also grows thickly in around the habitations. Officials fear that the tall grasses and thick marshes will succumb to the toxic oil from the spill.
The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is now excepting volunteer applications to help reduce the impact on the wildlife in the Bay and Dauphin Island. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Mississippi Laboratory are combining their efforts to collect samples from the community in the areas of the island, the Alabama sound and the eastern coast of Louisiana.
Fishing stations are providing tissue samples along a predetermined track. The Associate Director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dr. John Dindo, is preparing to deal with wildlife that has become oiled and injured. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working in conjunction with the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary Foundation to assist with oiled-bird emergency response plans.
The oil will tar up into balls as it reaches the shores of the island. When the oil mixes with the silt of the delta area, it is expected to turn the oil into a toxic mix that resembles brown pudding.
No stations are open yet but in the days ahead, they will operate to clean oiled birds and animals. Officials say that damage will depend on how quickly the oil is capped.
Town of Dauphin Island; About Dauphin Island
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; NOAA
Dauphin Island Sea Lab; DISL Press Release