At the Shoreline and 40 Miles out at the Slick

The past few days we’ve been with Pro Surfer and Adventure Team Member James Pribram and Below the Surface at the coast. Our objective was to discover for ourselves what is happening and what needs to be done. The realities are saddening. The impact is far reaching.

Earlier in the week we asked the GOALØ facebook community what the consequences of the spill might be to fishing and water sports. A fan wisely responded: why not ask about the impact to the entire ecosystem? He was right.

Arriving in New Orleans on Thursday night the team gathered at a pub to map out locations to cover. Local conversation near our table centered around a local fisherman who died from alcohol poisoning. He drank himself to death devastated by the oil spill putting an end to plentiful fishing waters and his income. Along the coastlines there are many who share in this dispair. Many who literally live from what the Gulf’s waters bring.

The next morning the team traveled to Biloxi to find a boat to board and head out to the spill. Usually on a Friday afternoon Biloxi would be hopping with fishermen hustling in and out for the days catch. Biloxi’s beaches and her roads would be lined with cars as people try to find a spot to worship the sun and dip into the Gulf’s warm waters. Not today. Boats docked and beaches empty – a veritable ghost town.

We were fortunate though. Amidst the docked boats was one man willing to take us out in his skiff. Hopping aboard we made our way out to meet the encroaching slick. Talking with the skipper he spoke in tones of disbelief – another potential casualty in this brewing storm. As a hotel owner he spoke of vacancies. Not just a few. Where occupancy would typically be at full, today, it was empty. With the spill rate jumping from 5,000 gallons to now 210,000 gallons a day the end of empty halls and rooms is no where in sight.

Finally, at 40 miles out we hit the slick. Contrary to what one would think, instead of a black sludge on the water, this was like a thick reddish mud. The PR spin is that the majority of the reddish invading sludge is “algae.” As far as we could see – there was no algae. It was what BP belched out from below. While drifting we stood there, blown away, by the massive spread of the flow. Evidence of its impact on animal life came to surface – the Blue Button jelly fish. The name comes from the hue of blue seen when swimming in unpolluted waters. Instead of a pulsating blue, the jelly fish resembled what could only be described as dark floating garbage bags.

Seeing the effect upon this marine life, while also exposed to the impact upon human life on shore makes the question, “what about the ecosystem,” even more relevant now. The ecosystem is so encompassing. Beyond marine life, the flora, the fauna, and our love for the outdoors, we see generations of families who have relied upon the coastal waters. What they will go through and how they will cope is unknown beyond the decades it will take for the natural habitat to recover. First it was Katrina, then the great recession. This, the next storm, is fast approaching. It is inconceivable – the collateral damage caused across this entire system of which we are a part. Now, these people once again have to piece together how they will survive. The cleanup efforts that are mounting, the failed efforts to control the oil flow, encompass so much more than just the oil.

Over the next few days we will piece together the footage and interviews taken from this exploratory trip.

Contributed by: James Pribram, Kyle Parkin and Chris Meek.

About James Pribram/Pro Surfer & Eco Warrior
James Pribram is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His written work has appeared in the LA Times, Surfer’s Path, Surfing, Surfer, Water and numerous additional publications worldwide. He is an active environmental leader in his community where he has served on the Laguna Beach Water Quality and Environmental Committees and is a board member for the Clean Water Now! Coalition. He co-founded Eco Warrior, a grass roots organization which is dedicated to protecting oceans, beaches and sea life worldwide, and They Will Surf Again, which raises money for people who have suffered from ocean-related spinal injuries. He is the owner and operator of Aloha School of Surfing, which teaches aspiring surfers of all ages the power of surf stoke. Pribram’s Surfing Soapbox column appears weekly in Laguna Beach’s Coastline Pilot Newspaper.

About Below the Surface
Below The Surface is a California non – profit organization focused on promoting water conservation and improving water quality in rivers and oceans. Learn more at

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