Media coverage, not oil, the problem
I was sitting on my screen porch reading the Clarion-Ledger when my eye caught a tiny article on the bottom of page 6B. “NOAA says Gulf seafood tested so far is safe to eat.”
The Associated Press article stated, “To date roughly 400 samples of commonly consumed species caught mostly in the open waters - and some from closed areas - have been chemically tested by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Officials say none so far has shown concerning levels of contaminants. Each sample represents multiple fish of the same species.”
Well that’s darn good news. Too bad it was buried in the bowels of the B section.
Meanwhile, the federal government has shut down one-third of the Gulf fishing areas just to be safe.
Consumers are so scared of tainted fish, many of our great local fresh Gulf fish restaurants are struggling to stay open.
Last month I got sick (not literally) of fresh Gulf seafood because it was so available, but consumers were still scared to eat it. It was delicious! That was before the feds shut down fishing. What’s the saying? I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.
I do give the Clarion-Ledger credit. In Sunday’s paper the headline was “Coast tourists still frightened away.” It was about how the beach is fine but people are scared.
The paper offers some interesting facts: 120 boats in Pass Christian have hauled in 1,050 pounds of oil. That comes to about nine pounds of oil per boat. Figuring the boats have been working for a couple of months, that’s a few ounces of oil a day.
Another fact from the article: So far, there have been three oiled dead birds. Gosh, I bet those three dead birds had their images reproduced a billion (literally) times.
The most important statistic: Zero beaches closed. Yet the damage to tourism has been immense. Our beach and hotels are empty. This will have a huge effect on tax collections and our state budget. Local school budgets will be cut. Teachers will lose jobs.
As I wrote a month ago, the media has hyped the oil spill. The media hypes everything. That’s what they do. I stand by my prediction. This time next year, the oil spill will be ancient history.
Now I admit I am an incorrigible optimist and some environmentalists are issuing dire predictions. It will certainly not be the first time environmentalists have exaggerated. Their job is to keep the environment pristine. They’re just doing their jobs.
Meanwhile, the fact that no levels of toxicity have been found, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is embarking on an unprecedented plan to relocate 50,000 turtle eggs from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic coast.
I’m not sure how many turtles, if any, will be killed by the oil spill, but moving 50,000 eggs will do huge damage to the Gulf turtle population. No doubt, in a few years the wildlife service will blame a sudden drop in the Gulf turtle population on the oil spill. As a side effect, the action will probably create a turtle overpopulation problem on the Atlantic coast. Thanks for the help, feds.
I have asked all my friends who have returned from a beach vacation the same question: Did you see oil? The answer from at least a dozen different people has been the same. “No. The beach was fine.” Hotels on the coast are posting daily You Tube videos of their beaches, trying to show customers that the beach is fine and the oil spill is no reason to cancel the traditional beach vacation.
I have another theory. Parents are using the oil spill to get out of the seven-hour drive to the beach where their children will then spend huge amounts of money having fun while they serve as tour guide and chauffeur. Guilty!
Clarion-Ledger editorial writer, David Hampton wrote in his column the beach was “clean and beautiful.” Yet he said his vacation was marred by “wondering if the pelican flying by would be covered with oil tomorrow as he dove for fish.” So it’s the thought of oil, not the oil itself, that’s the problem. This dovetails nicely with my theory that the publicity caused more damage than the oil itself.