Theodore, Alabama — At this point, there is no way to prevent the oil slick from attempting to approach the Gulf Coast. According to the latest fact sheet produced by the Deepwater Horizon Response Team, “More than 2,500 people are working in the response effort following the sinking of the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.” BP has created a “Vessel of Opportunity” program that enlists the help of anglers in clean-up, transporting wildlife and deploying booms.
Booms are floating barriers that contain surface oils and keep them back from the land. More than 1,000 people received training in towing and handling these important barriers. Several 25 boat task forces are now in oily areas along the coast. Currently, 500 boats are involved in the “Vessels of Opportunity.”
A boom is a tubular barrier that holds back oil that floats on the surface of the water. Booms are only three and a half feet long and catch surface oils only. In rough waters, oil can be sloshed over the tops of booms making them useless.
Booms work well in deep waters in the ocean or in shallower areas near the shore. These barriers work three ways. Booms contain oil until removal can occur. They deflect oil by guiding it to a location more conducive to recovery. A boom holds back floating oil protect precious environments like marshes and wetlands.
Oil floats on the surface of water. Besides maintaining the surface, the boom’s underwater curtain keeps the oil from slipping under the top of the boom. Several hundred-thousand feet are floating in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Boats carry the booms out into the water in areas determined by the response team. The heavy vinyl booms are then lowered into the water. The booms are unfolded in the water to extend out to their fullest length. Booms may be connected at the surface and under the water with vinyl clips to make larger corrals. The booms are arranged in an arc to provide better barrier coverage.
According to the NOAA, there are 3.2 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 24 million fishing trips in 2008. These fishermen harvested more than a billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2008. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have closed commercial and recreational fishing in areas of the Gulf. The Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke says, “We stand with America’s fisherman, their families and businesses in impacted coastal communities during this very challenging time. Fishing is vital to our economy and our quality of life and we will work tirelessly to protect it.”
BP is still hiring boat owners to take part in the Vessels of Opportunity. After meeting the necessary requirements, a four-hour training session is required and a Coast Guard inspection. Boat owners who participate receive compensation for their help.
Deepwater Horizon Response Team, Boom Information
NOAA, Fisheries Update