The men and women of the National Park Service have been an integral part of the national federal response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. All NPS units in the Gulf remain open and are conducting park operations.
Gulf Islands NS – Gulf Islands received a swath of sheen and tar balls approximately two miles long and three feet wide on Petit Bois Island on June 1st. Sheen has also been observed since June 2nd along the southern shore of Horn Island and possibly looping slightly around the end of the island. SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique) and READ (Resource Advisors) teams have been evaluating and responding to the situation, but clean-up efforts have been hampered by inclement weather. Additionally preparations in the Pensacola area are being made in response to a slick less than seven miles offshore. This includes the use of booms off the western tip of Santa Rosa Island near Ft. Pickens.
South Florida Parks (Big Cypress NP, Biscayne NP, DeSoto NM, Dry Tortugas NP, Everglades NP) – Recreational and commercial fishing waters approximately 15 miles west of Dry Tortugas NP have been closed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; however, this does not affect all areas near the park, so people are advised to check the NOAA website at www.noaa.gov . The Key West Tar Ball Incident has been re-opened based on additional tar balls found at Duck Key. South Florida incident command has stationed Wayne Elliot, deputy operations chief in Key West, to continue coordination with the USCG Key West Sector and other partner agencies. Personnel continue to conduct daily surveys of the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park. Monitoring continues at all South Florida park coastal areas. There has been no oil from Deepwater Horizon in the parks. Visitors are continuing to enjoy the islands and beaches and all the related recreational opportunities they offer. A communications center continues to be staffed by a team of information officers and can be contacted at 305-224-4215, or via email at SouthFloridaNPS@gmail.com .
Jean Lafitte NHP&P – Park staff are working with the unified command in Mobile and with state and parish officials to plan for any necessary defensive actions.
Padre Island NS – Personnel have collected three tar balls this week. Padre Island is a nesting ground for Kemp’s Ridley turtles and so far this year, 48 have been found in the park. Tracking devices attached to Kemp's Ridley turtles while they are nesting allow the park to monitor their movement after nesting. Turtles often head for the area currently being affected by the spill when they finish nesting. Resource staffers are also planning for a survey early next week in which they will reshoot baseline photos for the park and record any incidences of sick or dead wildlife.
The national parks in the Gulf of Mexico and south Florida preserve wildlife habitats and historical areas that are unique to our country. Coral reefs, mudflats, mangroves, marshes, and seagrass beds provide nurseries, refuge, and feeding areas for wildlife, while lighthouses, seacoast fortifications, and shipwrecks preserve evidence of trade, war, and maritime technology dating back to the 16th century. Millions of people come to these seashore and island national parks for relaxation, inspiration and fun. In national park lands and waters the oil spill could contaminate and destroy the food sources and nesting areas for marine wildlife, including endangered least terns and Kemp’s Ridley turtles. Spilled oil can permanently damage historic brick coastal fortifications on the water’s edge, like Fort Massachusetts at Gulf Islands National Seashore, or underwater shipwrecks like the Windjammer at Dry Tortugas National Park. Of additional concern, oil clean-up crews and equipment could disturb or damage sensitive wildlife habitats and archeological sites. Beaches, bayous, and waters will be closed if they become contaminated.
For more information on the NPS, DOI and national oil spill responses and for a link to the BP online oil spill safety training needed by all incident staff, please see the following: