Gulf of Mexico
10 years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a look back at lost islands

LA - 10 years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a look back at lost islands

Despite billions of dollars in restoration money, some places are probably lost forever

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - When BP’s oil began soaking the shoreline of Cat Island in Plaquemines Parish weeks after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, P.J. Hahn knew the island and its inhabitants were in trouble.

“There’s no good time for an oil spill, but it couldn’t been at a worse time,” said Hahn, who served at the time as the Plaquemines Parish coastal director.

Crude poured into Barataria Bay in the weeks following the blow out of the Macondo well on April 20, 2010.

The explosion and fire killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig, spewing over three million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Cat Island was actually one of a few islets in Cat Bay, where hundreds of brown pelicans and other birds were at the height of their nesting season.

Like much of coastal Louisiana, the islands were shrinking and eroding long before BP began drilling its well.

In the months and years after the spill, the Plaquemines Parish government blamed the spill for hastening the island’s demise.

“To see the number of birds that had hatched and covered in oil was really depressing," Hahn said.

Crude, which piled onto the shoreline, was pushed onto the island by high tides and winds.

“The oil apparently killed all those mangroves, and once the roots die that’s what was holding the island together,” said David Muth, Director of Gulf Restoration for the National Wildlife Federation.

Ten years later, larger nesting colonies are going strong.

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On 10th anniversary of oil well blowout, UNH expert says lessons have been learned  The Union Leader