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Gulf spill: Reflect on what we can do to make sure this never happens in our area
I lived in Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherman in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in the then-pristine Prince William Sound.
I worked on the front lines during the spill. I coordinated the vessel leasing office to assist in the cleanup. I also did dead seabird counts, bags and bags and bags of them. It was a nightmare, like a war zone ... very difficult even now to watch the news about the Gulf spill without feeling emotional!
The fishing fleet in the Gulf will respond and be paid for their efforts, but like us should not count on anything but minimal compensation. We finally settled with Exxon for 10 percent of the original award given to us in the trial in which they were found to be negligent.
I believe it is a good time to reflect on what we can do to make sure this never happens in our area. I suggest the best effort you can make is to ensure that the Puget Sound is protected and remains so, with continued tug escorts and to promote double-hull tankers only in our waters.
Focus on your own backyard. It is too late in the Gulf; they did not (like Exxon) burn the oil as soon as it was spilled. Now it has mixed with seawater and turns into a deadly, sticky, nonburnable mousse. Some will be captured, but most will wash ashore, catch unsuspecting seabirds and other animals, pollute the reefs and remain in the onshore and offshore environment for decades. It is sad, but this is the price we pay for our dependence on oil.
Please, if you use diesel try to use recycled or vegetable oil or any other alternative oil substance to operate your vessel or truck. We can only be effective in our own backyard. Introduce oil spill awareness and teach your passengers about the dangers and the best way for them to ensure this does not happen here. Make sure they understand how important it is that tug escorts and double-hulled tankers are worth the extra expense. That is how you can be effective — outreach and education.
Pacific Islands Research Institute