July 16th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

Gulf Dispatch: Diving through oil at critical relief time

Editor's note: Philippe Cousteau Jr. is the grandson of legendary ocean explorer and filmmaker Jacques Yves Cousteau. Philippe heads the nonprofit organization EarthEcho International (www.earthecho.org). Philippe, who has been working in this field for years, is an advocate for the people and the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. During the oil crisis, he has visited the area and learned first hand the impact the disaster has had on the ecosystem and on the people who have been affected by the catastrophe. Read more about Philippe's background.

It was 7:00 a.m. and the heat and humidity were already rising in the bayou as marsh grasses raced passed us.

On this trip to southern Louisiana, I was accompanied by a good friend and executive vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, Denny Kelso. I am on the board of the Ocean Conservancy and proud of the work we have done as the oldest nationally focused ocean conservation organization in the country.

Philippe Cousteau Jr. and Denny Kelso, executive vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, examine oiled marshes in Louisiana.

Getting the chance to work with Denny is always a privilege because, aside from being a longtime leader in the conservation field, he was also commissioner for the environment of the state of Alaska during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and he has a wealth of knowledge like no other.

As we entered the 85th day of the oil spill Denny’s familiar refrain was wringing true… “We have to start thinking about restoration now…we can’t wait.”

We had come with CNN International to film oil encroaching into the fragile marsh, dive through the oil and talk about the need for restoration now.

We slowed the boat as we reached our destination. Black oil coated the shoreline of these fragile marshes and already the grass was dying. As we gear up for the fall bird migration, this was a worrisome sight to say the least.

This oiled marsh was a perfect example of just how serious this oil spill is as it moves into a new stage, and it reminds us of how vigilant we have to be in our response and how critical it is to get it right the first time.

As nurseries for fish and shrimp, these marshes are critical to the health of the Gulf ecosystem.

Forty percent of all the wetlands in the lower 48 states exist along the coast of Louisiana, and the feeble technology of booms and skimming is doing little to keep them safe.

As Denny put it, “We need to focus on the three Rs: Relief, restoration, and reform.”

The RELIEF is for the communities that exist along the coast; primarily in the form of immediate financial assistance to help the people who rely on these resources. Thankfully, that is happening and communities are getting some limited support, though more is needed because of the laborious process of applying for BP compensation. Thanks in part to the work of the Ocean Conservancy, the appropriations measure to provide millions of dollars in financial assistance to local communities to help them meet their short-term commitments is moving through Congress.

The goals of RESTORATION are simple: Assess the damage, develop alternative options that can then be narrowed down into a single plan and then implement it.

Already, Ocean Conservancy is working with key federal agencies like NOAA and the Department of Interior to make recommendations on how damage assessments should be conducted in the most comprehensive way possible to create a healthy future for the Gulf.

As I wrote in one of my earlier blogs, REFORM of the policies that govern oil and gas is another critical part of preventing something like this from happening again. We must reform the way the planning and leasing process happens so that the appropriate environmental analyses are done, ensure that we have both the baseline scientific knowledge as well as the technology to clean up a spill, and then ensure that revenue generated by activities that put our oceans at risk — like drilling for oil and gas — are reinvested in protecting, maintaining and restoring ocean health.

The latest news is that a new containment cap test has stopped the flow oil into the Gulf for the first time in months, bringing a reason for optimism and a welcome short-term solution. So as we move into the next phase of this catastrophe, the three Rs are the next critical step to dealing with this disaster effectively, responsibly and ethically. Anything less would only make what has already been a devastating catastrophe exponentially worse.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. BreakingNewsBlog.us

    the BP test has clearly shown, that, the BOP and everything under the BOP, have had NO oil leaking (since, both, was made, by design, to resist to very high oil pressures) while the wellhead top has been completely closed by the new containment cap (whose MAIN PURPOSE isn't to close the wellhead, but, later, to collect and pump up the oil and SELL it...) and, that, was PERFECTLY KNOW by BP also BEFORE this test
    THAT is what I've ALWAYS SAID in last TWO MONTHS in my article about the oil spill:
    so, WHY hasn't BP used a modified version of its giant Genesis GXP 2500 idraulic shears (or the containment cap used now) to do the SAME THING but TWO MONTHS AGO and BEFORE the terrific disaster in the Gulf ?????????????????
    could FBI and the Press INVESTIGATE on that, instead of CLOSE their eyes ????????????

    July 16, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • qwerasdf

      spammer named BreakingNewsBlog whose blog features:

      Zero science (CHECK)
      Zero math (CHECK)
      Zero calculations (CHECK)
      Zero facts (CHECK)
      Zero research (CHECK)
      5 year old imagination with a crayon (CHECK)
      No education (CHECK)
      Poor English (CHECK)
      Can't spell Oxygen (CHECK)
      Crappy idea that BP, US Gov, any government, any company won't take (CHECK)
      Ugly website (CHECK)
      Spam (CHECK)
      Someone who doesn't know how to skip lines and puts idiotic periods (CHECK)

      you are a complete joke. Get an education first.

      And we all know you are a joke::
      Marano, Gaetano
      Via Ambrogio Arabia 11-D
      Cosenza, CS 87100

      For the record I'm not defending BP. I just think BreakingNews is an idiot. So does everyone else.

      July 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • BreakingNewsBlog.us

      now, you should be happy, "qwerasdf-BP-guy"... with the wellhead closed, your BP shares and stock options should soon go up again... 😐

      July 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ricky d warwick

    Dr Cousteau, yes i said Dr... Anyone spending a lifetime defending our environment diserves that. is on target with the 3r's. Now, let me say this. The reform part will be our biggest challenge because as long as the big corp's are allowed to donate funds to political activities/dinners/political races/anywhere thay can stick a few bucks! the us government as well as governments round the world will always look the other way when it comes to makeing critical disicions like the one so poorly made on that eco-disaster oil platform three months back. Don't think so??? Just click on the oil disaster tab within Google/Earth. You will see countless oil spills round the world produced by oil comp's with big government's in their back pockets! Im a 55 year old nature lover, and can write a book on the environmental distruction of big corp/gov!! Im done here now, my blood pressure's going up...

    July 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. arek

    horror pictures of the Gulf of Mexico link http://alexirin.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/horror-zdjecia-z-zatoki-meksykanskiej/

    July 17, 2010 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |