Gulf oil spill: One year after

Published 12:02 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

The days following the April 20, 2010, fire and eventual massive oil leak at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig brought out apocalyptic predictions fit for Nostradamus.

Media, experts, common fisherman and casual observers were quick to declare the oil spill as the worst natural disaster ever to strike the Gulf of Mexico. The seafood industry, which has sustained generation after generation of people living along the Gulf, would be decimated. Wildlife habitats as we knew them would disappear under a miles-wide swath of foul-smelling oil. That same oil would infiltrate Louisiana’s delicate marshlands, rendering inedible feeding beds for small crustaceans that have been delicacies for generations. The seafood industry would be lost, tourism drained and an entire area ruined.

Now, four days after the one-year anniversary of the gusher — which dumped an estimated 174 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico before it could be capped — scientists are saying the overall health of the Gulf is near pre-Deepwater Horizon levels.

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Positive news, indeed, especially for those with such geographical ties as we have with the Gulf, though there certainly is no reason to begin to plan the party.

The future ramifications of the spill — and there will be some — might not be known for years or even decades. But for now, the signs are pointing in the right direction.

Among the general scientific conclusions in studying the one-year impact the spill had on the ecosystem: The food is safe to eat; the beaches are not littered with tar balls and large chunks of oily goop; and the waters soon will be the optimal temperature for a swim.

Thankfully, the dire prognostications made in the days following the disaster have not come true. Scientists will continue to monitor the Gulf for years to come.

But as of now, the prognosis looks good. And the news couldn’t have happened at a better time. With summer around the corner, outdoor gatherings centered on tasty seafood will increase.

Thankfully, it will be safe seafood.