Coast faces ‘ongoing assault’ from oil



President Barack Obama saw the effects of both Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on his visit to South Mississippi Monday.

“Now, everybody here has had experiences dealing with disasters,” Obama said after a helicopter trip from Gulfport to Theodore, Ala. “As we were flying over from Mississippi via helicopter, you could see the footprints of buildings that had been decimated from Katrina. But in some ways what we’re dealing with here is unique because it’s not simply one catastrophic event. It’s an ongoing assault whose movements are constantly changing. That’s what makes this crisis so challenging.”

Below his helicopter, clean-up crews scanned the beaches for signs of tarballs and vessels of opportunity outnumbered the shrimp boats.

“The season is still open,” said Lauren Thompson, spokesperson for the Department of Marine Resources. “They’re catching shrimp and getting a good price for them.” Last year shrimpers were getting 80 cents a pound for shrimp. While that’s up to $1.60 now, only about a dozen shrimp boats went out on Monday compared to 60 boats when the season opened early on June 3, she said. Most of the others are working for BP.

The area closed to fishing was extended Saturday around Petit Bois and Horn Islands, where 1,000 tar balls and streaks of oil were found. If boats go into those areas, Thompson said they are directed to dump their catch. “And that has happened.” Maps of the areas that are off-limit are posted at piers, boat launches, bait shops and on the MDEQ Web site.

Obama said, “There’s a sense that this disaster is not only threatening our fishermen and our shrimpers and our oystermen, not only affecting potentially precious marshes and wetlands and estuaries and waters that are part of what makes the Gulf Coast so special — there’s also a fear that it can have a long-term impact on a way of life that has been passed on for generations.”

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