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Surfing Soapbox: At the scene of oil spill

Flying into New Orleans with the great Mississippi River below us, I couldn’t help but wonder what impact the Gulf of Mexico oil spill would have on this area.

There is already a halt on all fishing and shrimping in effect. Many of the local fishermen and their vessels are being hired to help in the cleanup efforts.

One interesting note is that five sea turtles have come up dead in the last few days with no evidence of oil contributing to their deaths. Shrimping vessels are being released a week early because of the oil spill, and local authorities speculate that fisherman may have killed them accidentally as they raced against the impending halt on fishing.

Hard to imagine how many more sea turtles may be killed as the oil slick worsens.


After landing, surfer Kristian Gustavson and I headed to the multiple lines of defense lab at the University of New Orleans, where we were briefed on the situation report by Ezra Boyd, coordinator of geographic information systems.

A mind-blowing figures is that an oil spill of this magnitude will cost $285 million for 30 days of shoreline cleanup.

There are three basic ways to control an oil spill: using oil booms; using dispersants and absorbents; and the more drastic measure of burning the oil itself.

The only significant breakthrough in cleanup efforts since the tragic Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 is that we now know that the oil booms can be anchored down, which helps to keep them from splashing around.


Kristian and I are coordinating our efforts with the National Audubon Society Waterkeeper alliance and Louisiana State University.

Soon, we will be chartering a boat and or doing a flyover of the oil spill with Dean Wilson from the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper.

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JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include and He can be reached at