Text and photos by Carl Safina
Shell Beach, Louisiana. The first thing that really impresses me is the immensity of the marshes and coast. Marshes as far as you can see, too points of the compass. Bewildering mazes of channels. How could this whole coast be protected? And if it isn’t, and oil comes, it could never be cleaned by people. It’s a wet, grassy sponge that stretches from horizon to horizon.
I hop onto a small boat that’s already pulling away from the dock in Shell Beach where I’ve been talking to a few people. The captain, Casey Kieff, was a fishing guide until the oil blowout caused the current indefinite fishing closure. Now he’s taking some photographers out to have a look at Breton Sound. On board is a reporter from Reuters, a crew from Russian state television, a photographer working for Getty images, and several others. The captain named a fair price and I jumped on, wondering if this is his last week of work—and what price could really be fair to him. For decades he’s been guiding people to sport-fish for Speckled Sea Trout and Redfish. No matter how bad the oil gets, media attention will wane. Guiding reporters won’t be a new career, and he’s got a lot on his mind.
We go to Hopedale to pick up a couple of other people. The cops have the road into here closed, but by boat we have free range of the place. The waterfront is bustling with trucks carrying miles and miles of boom, all kinds of boats getting into the act for a day’s uneasy pay, the National Guard, wildlife enforcement people—all kinds of busyness intent on oil-containment plans that are at worst futile and at best high-risk. There seems both a lot of organization and a lot of confusion.