> Ian Wren*
> *Baykeeper in Action: from the SF Bay to the Gulf of Mexico*

> Ian Wren is Staff Scientist/Investigator at San Francisco Baykeeper,
> a San Francisco based nonprofit founded in 1989 that works to
> reverse the environmental degradation of the past and promote
> new strategies and policies to protect the water quality of the
> San Francisco Bay.  Its mission is to protect and enhance the water
> quality of the San Francisco Bay for the benefit of its ecosystems
> and human communities (visit www.baykeeper.org <http://www.baykeeper.org>).

> Prior to joining Baykeeper, Ian worked as a Habitat Restoration
> Specialist in Southern California and a Hydrologist in London, UK,
> and has worked with a range of public, private and non-profit
> organizations in California and Europe on issues surrounding urban
> water quality, coastal diffuse pollution, endangered species, and
> wetland restoration.

> Ian, who supports Baykeeper's litigation and advocacy efforts
> through scientific review of issues relevant to Bay ecology and
> chemical status, will describe Baykeepers mission and what he
> learned from a recent visit to the oil impacted areas of the
> Gulf of Mexico. He will also bring us up to date on the status of
> Gulf oil spill response efforts.
Ian began by explaining a little about Baykeeper. They are a nonprofit, part of a river keeper network, Waterkeeper Alliance, organized by Robert Kennedy, Jr. They work with regulators to ensure that good water quality outcomes are achieved. They also patrol the bay looking for pollution dumping.

Ian recently spent three weeks in the Gulf helping with response to the Deepwater Horizon spill. He showed us booms that weren't doing much, and stockings full of hair to absorb oil. He said those kinds of things probably work with much smaller spills than this one. He explained that the Cosco Busan spill we'd had just a few years ago was about a half hours worth of spill from the Deepwater Horizon. The Santa Barbara spill that had galvanized California back in the '70s was only two days worth of output from the current gusher under the Gulf of Mexico.  California's entire offshore oil production works out to about what is spewing from the Deepwater Horizon's blown well. That one spill is a huge event.

Ian had a lot to say about the dispersants being used. So far BP has injected 1.8 million gallons of the stuff into the oil coming out of the well head. This has the effect of making it hover in the water column instead of rising to the surface as Alaskan oil did after the Valdez spill.  What does reach the surface becomes these incredibly sticky droplets that do wildlife no favors. This is the first time such dispersants are being used on a big oil spill.

Dispersants are preventing the pictures of black oiled beaches that BP didn't want to see, but it has other effects we are still figuring out. So far known dead include 1800 seabirds, 444 sea turtles, and at least 53 dolphins and other aquatic mammals. The number of fish killed is unknown. More study will be needed to see if this strategy is really helping. Clearly the oil plume is a low oxygen environment compared to normal sea water.

Oil seeps into the Gulf of Mexico have been an ongoing part of the ecosystem for so long that the water column has microbes built into it that eat oil. Ian thinks that maybe some fertilizing might help them. Since the Mississippi River already dumps a lot of nitrogen fertilizers from farm runoff into the area that is probably not needed. People are looking into ways to add phosphorous and oxygen.

There was a lot of active Q&A participation:

Kevin Costner's gadget is a centrifuge that separates oil and water. BP has bought 30 of the things, and we don't yet know how useful they are.

The fishing may be back in five years but it's not clear the fishermen will be. Most fishing operations were delicately balanced on big debt service requirements, and five years of no fishing will likely bankrupt them.

The Deepwater Horizon found this gusher about fifty miles offshore.

Skimmers would work a lot better if the oil wasn't having detergent added to it.

If you want to help out, please send donations to saveourgulf.org.