Pictures of the great birds struggling to rise from the oiled surface, their bodies and out-stretched wings draped in brown sludge, flashed around the world, becoming the iconic image of the disaster.
As scientists watched youngsters burst into the world from oil-coated eggs only to be fed fish from the polluted waters by parents sticky with poison, they wondered: Would the bay’s populations of pelicans, and their sea and shorebird cousins, collapse?
Any tour of the bay the last two springs would seem to provide a resounding “no” to that question. The number of birds nesting appears as high as before the spill.
Yet while researchers and staffers from environmental groups like the Audubon Society say they are happy so far — it’s the “so far” that concerns them.
“They are helpless to protect themselves in the face of this type of threat,” Driscoll said. “They will go back to the places they always go, because they can’t recognize the harm in doing so
So we won’t know how much harm is done for years to come.
In fact, the public can’t be certain how much harm has been done so far. State and federal agencies responsible for wildlife have been hard at work on the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, which will determine how much BP and its partners will owe for damage caused by their spill.
They are measuring populations as well as any presence of toxins in the birds. But government lawyers have put all results under wraps to avoid giving any edge to the responsible parties in what is likely to be a long, contentious legal process.
Via Michael Stuart