Small traces of oil have washed ashore in northwest Florida in the first apparent impact there from the Gulf of Mexico spill. Pensacola advertises the “world’s whitest beaches”, but there are fears that the tar balls that have begun appearing could seriously hit tourism.
The industry brings 50 billion euros a year to the Sunshine State. The oil is to be analysed to confirm the link with the BP spill.
“I hate it. I lived here all my life,” said Buck Lee, director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority. “This is my beach and I don’t want to see any oil on it. What we have now – these little splotches – if that’s all we ever get, we can live with it, pick it up and move on.”
On his third visit to Louisiana since the disaster, President Obama warned BP not to fiddle Gulf coast residents, amid reports that the company was due to pay nearly nine billion euros in dividends to shareholders.
The President has vowed to hold BP accountable, but some locals are reporting problems getting compensation.
“Obviously, the people are upset because nothing seriously has been done,” said fisherman Jerry Bodiford. “There’s a lot of finger pointing and the sad part of it is when you come down here you see who’s suffering for it. I mean this a beautiful area for fishing. It’s just absolutely sickening, it really is, when you seen their livelihoods being lost here.”
Dozens of oiled birds – including pelicans, Louisiana’s state emblem – have been plucked from the waters close to the scene of Obama’s visit. Vets say they were rescued early and have a good chance of survival. But thousands of other birds remain at risk.