Today I enjoyed the adventures of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa with my wife and children. My five-year-old son touched the stingray, greeted two penguins, and danced between exhibits of aquatic creatures big and small.
“Look at this yellow finned fish Daddy, ooh and look at this one, and that one,” my son could barely control his excitement.
We sat for a few minutes in front of one glass wall, as scores of fish, all shapes and sizes navigated a 50 by 50 foot man made underwater fortress. Round and round they went in circles. Every 14 seconds the same fish would kiss the glass on the other side of my little boy’s finger tips. For a moment I pondered in pity their existence, imprisoned in a glass cell, cut off from the endless adventures of the vast ocean waters. Then I was reminded of the certain calamity our gulf coast waters are about to embrace with the massive oil spill. These were truly the fortunate sea-creatures.
On April 20, an explosion and fire on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig causing a leak of an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day. Since then, attempts to stop the leak have failed.
More than 2 million animals were killed in the 1989 oil spill (Alaska Exxon Valdez). Certain catastrophic results are expected in Florida sea-life in the weeks to come. Birds will have organ damage, the nesting season of turtles will be eradicated, and billions of fish eggs and larvae coating the Gulf’s surface this time of year will be destroyed.
Business owners in Tampa Bay and along the gulf coast of Florida are already feeling the effects of the Oil disaster. This tropical paradise plays host to tourism year-round. Whether it’s a family vacation to the beach, deep sea fishing trips, dolphin and whale watching tours, or a fresh seafood dinner, all may be lost soon. Couple this with the sensitive Oyster Industry, fresh fish markets, and the Charter Fishing peak season, and you have the foundation of the coastal economy in doubt.
A lack of tourism results in a lack of jobs for the bay area. In an already challenging economy, this could spell disaster.
For over 100 years communities along the gulf coast have embraced hurricanes, and now they await a tropical disaster unlike any storm. While there is no mass-exodus to safer distances, there is anxiety, and cause for great concern as we wait for evidence of oil to wash upon our shores.
Just last week I walked along the waters edge with my son, hand and hand, as the sun set before us, when suddenly two dolphins leaped from the waves just 10 feet in front of us causing a synchronized splash. “Daddy, daddy, did you see that,” my little boy cheered! The harsh reality is we may never see it again.
Bay News 9
The International Online