No oil here (or is there?)
Freezing beachgoers drew a line in the sand
in February 2010 in the first local Hands Across the Sand event.
Hands Across the Sand will draw people to beaches around the world on Saturday, Aug. 4, at noon to draw a line in the sand saying no to offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy.
If Anna Maria Island participates, it will be the fourth time people have lined Island beaches hand in hand for the event.
Opposition to oil drilling off Florida’s coast drew 180 people to the first local event on a cold day in February 2010, after the Florida House of Representatives voted to lift the ban on nearshore drilling.
Two months later, in April, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
The June 2010 event drew 400 people.
In June 2011, after it was abundantly clear that the oil spill had not affected Anna Maria Island, only 27 people attended the event on Manatee Public Beach.
But recent evidence suggests the oil spill may have unforeseen consequences here and as far north as Minnesota.
Researchers have found traces of petroleum compounds and Corexit, the chemical used to break up the oil spill, in the eggs of American white pelicans in Minnesota, according to UPI.
American white pelicans, a true Florida snowbird, arrive here each winter, flocking in Sarasota Bay off Cortez. You’ve probably seen them flying over the Island in neat Vs, although they look mostly black from the ground because the underside of their wings are black.
About 90 percent of the white pelican eggs tested so far contain petroleum compounds and nearly 80 percent contain Corexit, according to research by Mark Clark, of North Dakota State University.
"Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts,” he said, adding that Corexit contains carcinogens as well as endocrine disruptors, which could interfere with growth hormones. “When things go wrong at that stage, there's usually no recovery."
Anna Maria Island has had economic effects from the oil spill, including restaurants that couldn’t sell seafood no matter how safe it was, and commercial fishermen who couldn’t work because of closed areas of the Gulf.
Health effects have shown up in local boat captains who helped clean up the oil off Louisiana and came back with respiratory and vision problems.
And now there’s an effect on wildlife that we thought we had escaped when the oil missed us – the prospect of fewer white pelicans brightening our winters.
The closest Hands Across the Sand event listed so far is at the TradeWinds Sandpiper, 6000 Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach.
To organize an event on local beaches, or for more information, visit www.handsacrossthesand.org.