That’s when Nick, who is rational, calm and articulate about the situation, begins to choke. “When I was a kid, I used to swim with the dolphins right here; I’d feed them silver eel from the nets. It was an awesome place to grow up. It hasn’t sunk in yet, to see all this ruined. I can’t even think it. But it doesn’t look good. I heard the guys from Alaska talk about the Exxon Valdez. Twenty-one years later, there’s still oil. It doesn’t look good for the fishing industry. And Jaden, he already knows he wants to oyster. What’s he going to do?”
|Nick Collins and his son, Jaden, inspect a test drag of the
family’s oyster beds after a hiatus of two weeks. The clump
in the foreground is oysters covered with snail eggs.
Untended beds are attacked by parasites like the snails,
which drill into the oysters and kill them.
Two weeks ago, heavy oil hit the beaches of Grand Isle, the barrier island that protects Caminada Bay, and oil sheen began to seep beyond the island and into the bays. Further to the east, in Plaquemines Parish, heavy oil has already invaded marshes.
“We’re not seeing it yet here,” says Nick of his oyster leases, “but we know it’s coming. There’s too much oil.”
Driving over the new toll bridge between Leeville and Grand Isle, you can see for miles into the wetlands and the bays. The waters of the Gulf are striped with orange booms. Two days before the Memorial Day weekend, Grand Isle should be packed with fishermen and tourists here for the Grand Isle Redfish Rodeo. The only boats on the water are Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office cruisers, taking journalists out to see the oil containment effort. Small knots of National Guardsmen stand around, looking lost, with nothing much to do.
We board the Capt. Nick, which needs a hosing down after idling for over a week. As we leave the dock, the water is spattered with black droplets so small that it looks like a school of squiggling tadpoles has surrounded the lugger. Oil has begun arriving in the bay. Farther out, the water itself is seaglass green, beautiful salty water from the Gulf. It’s high tide. Nick drops the dredge for a test, to see what his oysters look like after two weeks of neglect.
The Collins family arrived in Louisiana before the turn of the 20th century. Frederick Collins traveled from Scotland to France, where with the aid of a man who is only remembered as “a Jewish man named Levy,” Frederick took ship for America. He stepped off the boat at Ellis Island, New York. Why he was drawn to Louisiana, Wilbert Collins, 72, currently the patriarch of the Collins family, never found out, but he does know his French-speaking great grandfather was a judge in Thibodaux sometime in the 1890s. Frederick Collins named his son Levy, in honor of his benefactor.
Levy Collins took to Lafourche Parish like a poule d’eau to water, moving down to a community then called Chenier, just to the west of Grand Isle. He had an innate sense of how to nurture Louisiana’s wild oysters.
“My great grandpa made these reefs in Caminada Bay,” says Nick, dredging seeming to trigger the storytelling gene that runs strong in the Collins family. “He tonged up oysters in Thunder Bayou; he felt they were a great oyster, but they had paper shells. He’d row a boat out into the bay and put the oysters on the sand, in the best spots. The bay thickened them up, made a better shell. He started these reefs we’re still using now.”
|Top to bottom: Nick Collins opens oysters; Jaden Collins,
7, is already an old hand on board the oyster lugger;
when the sack is flipped over the Collins Oyster Co. sign,
it means there are no oysters to sell.
|Wilbert Collins today, and in 1951 at age 14 (at far left, holding fish), when he won the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo with a big redfish.|
|Caminada Bay oysters are in the path of the oil slick.|
Nick’s Caminada Bay oyster was sweet, with a meaty marine flavor and unique mineral notes. And May, as Nick adds, is not high oyster season. “You should try my oysters in November, when they’re at their prime.”
His pride in my delight lit up his face for a moment. And then, like a wave, I could see the recollection of the present situation wash over his features. “I’m so proud I’m part of this company and the Caminada Bay oysters,” he says of his family business. “BP can’t put a price on this.”
Best Case Scenario?
A hurricane in the oily Gulf may be just what we need.
Written by Walter Pierce
Hurricane season began Tuesday, casting even more uncertainty on the resolution to what has become the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Estimates last week were that the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster released as few as 17 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and as many as 30 million gallons, easily eclipsing the 11 million gallons spilled in the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska. But while a hurricane raking across the Gulf with all that oil still in a relatively confined area off the coast presents a lot of X factors, it could help expedite the inevitable and actually mitigate the toxic assault on our wetlands.
“A lot of it is speculative on what it’s going to do,” admits KATC Chief Meteorologist Rob Perillo, who has been tracking and analyzing Gulf Coast storms for a quarter century and who sees a silver lining in the eye wall of a potential hurricane. “Obviously, a lot of it is going to disperse the oil — you’re going to have wind, rough seas; it’s just like the dispersant: It doesn’t make it go away, it’s just spreading out the love across a larger area.”
Just like the dispersant, but non-toxic, natural.
“If you have an oil slick that’s covering — pick a number — a thousand acres out in the Gulf, and a storm comes with the big waves and it busts it up, now instead of a thousand acres out in the Gulf, it’s covering a million acres of coastal Louisiana,” adds Mark Shirley, an LSU Ag Center agent based in Abbeville. “So, it’s going to spread out into such a thin film, it may not be recognizable. It may be there in just a very minute amount in the midst of everything else that is impacted, the mud and all that, you may not even see it.”
But microbes — invisibly tiny organisms indigenous to the Gulf that feed on oil and are being genetically modified in laboratories to deal with future oil spills — will see it. And ultimately, writes David Biello for Scientific American, the microbes will do the heavy lifting in cleaning up the spill in the long term.
Meanwhile, a hurricane or tropical storm in Gulf could offer additional benefits.
“With some really big waves and rough weather, storms actually aerate the whole water column of the Gulf of Mexico,” Shirley says. “When you have these 20- and 30-foot waves building up offshore, all that turbulence does add oxygen.” And, he adds, all those microbes dining away on the oil will need oxygen — the churn of a storm will help provide it as they gorge themselves.
But both Shirley and Perillo acknowledge that the Deepwater Horizon spill places us in new territory, and much of this is speculation. Wishful thinking, maybe.
“You’re talking about something that is unprecedented, and no one really can venture how impactful it may be,” says the meteorologist, who predicts a busy 2010 hurricane season. “[A storm] may turn out to be something of a boon. We’re going to have to deal with oil out there one way or another, and if we can’t scoop it up we’re going to have to disperse it, and that means you’re going to have toxicity levels of your water spread out over a much larger area. How toxic will it be? At what point is the turning point? How dispersed does this stuff have to be in order to not make a significant impact on the environment?”
Those are the $64,000 questions.
Hurricanes are relatively uncommon in the early months of the season, and, as Shirley points out, June 1 is more or less an arbitrary date. “It’s not like duck season or deer season where as soon as the season opens you have activity,” he says. “Generally it’s going to be later, in August, September and October.”
One clear drawback to a hurricane early in the season is the disruption it would cause to the human intervention under way right now; there are thousands of people on the coast and offshore, along with hundreds of vessels, battling the slick. A hurricane or tropical storm would present a logistical challenge.
Regardless of the timing of a storm, Perillo says we should brace ourselves — the storms will come.
“I would pretty much be willing to put money down that it will be busier than last year, probably twice as busy in the Atlantic Basin, and pure statistics tell us that there’s going to be more activity in the Gulf of Mexico,” Perillo says with a sigh. “Everybody’s going to be included in the mix this year.”
“As bad a catastrophe as it is,” Shirley says of the spill, “at least the people especially in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Lafourche parishes impacted by the oil, at least their houses aren’t under water and destroyed. We have communications and power; we can work in an air-conditioned command center to plot all this stuff — a lot of infrastructure and everything is working. Whereas in a storm, we’re still trying to clear the roads just to get down there. Yeah, this is a catastrophic event, but storms, hurricanes can be a lot worse.”
Ultimately, the Gulf Coast shouldn’t be worried so much about hurricanes and an oil slick as it should simply about hurricanes.
Newcomer to Top 50 among five companies selected for Naval contract
INDstyle 2014 brings down house
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
Both sets of figures — adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes — were released by the U.S. Labor Department.
Texas declined by five rigs, West Virginia dropped three and Louisiana was down two.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
Three bedroom patio home or three bedroom traditional
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Ramsey Morein prepares an old Cajun classic also known as chaudin in this latest episode of filmmaker Stephen Meaux's culinary series.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
We’re in the second year of the second term of the first black president of the United States. And so it might seem that as Americans, as a nation, we have come a long way. And perhaps we have. But the recent killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., left me angry and sad. Here we go again, I thought.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans has upheld a federal safety board's right to investigate the role of Transocean Deepwater Drilling Corp. in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
In what world does it make sense to balance the budget for a public school system by cutting schools from the poorest neighborhoods?
A supporter of a lawsuit against the oil industry has been re-nominated to a seat on a south Louisiana flood control board despite opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal.
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
Two bedroom cottage or four bedroom traditional
D.A. Mike Harson gets a gift from a federal judge as he tries to hang onto his job.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The eclectic beauty of modern, prints, boho
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
The nominating committee for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was set Thursday to nominate applicants for two people on the board whose terms have expired.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
Restaurant could see ‘a little facelift,’ Bobby Butcher tells Daily Report.