First came Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 monster storm that devastated [the] small fishing community in Plaquemines Parish before roaring up the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people and destroying $125 billion in property. Five years later, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded 40 miles offshore, spewing nearly 200 million gallons of crude. The fisheries have not fully recovered more than nine years later.
But this year may be worse. A historic slow-moving flood of polluted Mississippi River water loaded with chemicals, pesticides and human waste from 31 states and two Canadian provinces is draining straight into the marshes and bayous of the Gulf of Mexico — the nurseries of Arnesen’s fishing grounds — upsetting the delicate balance of salinity and destroying the fragile ecosystem in the process.
…The torrent of river water pushing into Gulf estuaries is decimating crab, oyster and shrimp populations. The brown shrimp catch this spring in Louisiana and Mississippi is already down by an estimated 80%, and oysters are completely wiped out in some of the most productive fishing grounds in the country, according to state and industry officials.
…It’s not just fisheries that are suffering. Dolphins have been dying in huge numbers across the region — nearly 300 this year already, which is three times the number in a normal year, according to federal and state officials. Fishermen report finding dead dolphins floating in water near shore or beached in the marshes, covered in painful skin lesions that scientists have linked to freshwater exposure. One fisherman reported finding a mother dolphin pushing her dead baby along in the water.
…Dolphins are particularly vulnerable to incursions of river water, he said. “Every time they open the Bonnet Carre spillway, we see a spike in deaths.”
“Dolphins are like the black box found on airplanes,” Solangi said. “They tell you what’s happening in the environment. When dolphins are doing well, the environment is doing well.”
…Officials say higher-than-normal dolphin strandings spiked in May, when there were 88 discovered along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts. That’s nearly eight times the average monthly number of dolphin mortalities during the BP spill from 2010 to 2014.
…Many fishermen who have worked in these areas for generations suspect something else is threatening their future: politics. As part of a plan to save Louisiana’s rapidly sinking coastline, state agencies want to pump in more sediment-heavy river water to help rebuild the disappearing land. Fishermen question the efficacy of freshwater diversions and worry about the dangers to fisheries and marine life posed by these projects. They question why NOAA would grant waivers to Louisiana last year to bypass the Marine Mammal Protection Act and allow the freshwater diversion construction to proceed.
…[Acy Cooper, a fourth-generation fisherman and president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association] blames the Army Corps for not adequately managing the river and controlling and dredging the river passes that empty into the Gulf, making the effects of freshwater worse.
There’s An Environmental Disaster Unfolding In The Gulf of Mexico | HuffPost