Hurricane Season or Oil Season?

First published June 2010

     It’s June 1, the day that marks the beginning of hurricane season; the day each year that brings back memories of the past. It is the day of expert opinions on how active the hurricane season will be, as though anyone could predict what Mother Nature has in mind.

     Yes, the hurricane season is officially upon us and there is an oil spill of great magnitude invading our shores and wetlands that when viewed from above resembles syrup blending with melted butter and slowly ebbing toward the edge of a pancake. Even the most minute of rain storms becomes devastating as the water currents stir up the oil and carry still more gallons of the deep dark crude further inland; a hurricane at this time would be tremendously devastating to the wildlife and the livelihood of so many South Louisiana inhabitants.

     The fishing industry of our homeland here in South Louisiana has been greatly affected by the negligence of an oil company, in this case British Petroleum (BP) Although the name of the company, in the realm of the big picture is no longer important, the careless disregard of human life remains unforgivable. As the fruitless efforts of BP to cap the runaway oil continue out in the recesses of the deep gulf waters, one only has to travel the highways and byways along the lazy southern bayous to put the puzzle pieces of the rippling oil spill picture in place.

     Business after business is void of the normal bustling activity that accompanies the May shrimp trawling season, a primary source of income for so many in the region. The net shops, normally working day and night to mend torn nets, have padlocked their doors. Dry docks situated along the bayou waterways are generally lined with boats awaiting their seasonal repairs, but now are showing signs of shutting down. Ice houses are no longer producing ice and seafood sheds have all but closed their doors as the oil continues to invade and make itself quietly at home in the fishing communities.

     Criminal investigations are claiming the news headlines as though it were a solution to the horrendous cruelty that a careless company has inflicted upon the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coastal region. The once bustling communities of fishermen, shrimpers, and crabbers are laying quiescent, waiting as they watch their livelihood, the livelihood of their ancestors, disappear as the marshes and bayous are forever changed from those they remember navigating as children. And while the prospering oil company has promised to ease the pain by employing the locals to help with the clean-up, many wonder if life as they have known it will ever be theirs again.

     Not only has the livelihood of so many been disbursed, the boating slips at marinas that would normally be filled, now lay vacant, void of the raucous of holiday and weekend boaters. Swimmers at the park are no longer prey to the sea life with crabs pinching at toes, but instead have fallen prey to globs of oil swimming about chasing them back to shore as though the waters were infested with human devouring sharks.

     To the rest of the world, as they await the expert’s predictions rather than those of Mother Nature, it’s hurricane season; at least for the ensuing six months. To those in the bayou region, it’s oil season.