Category Archives: Marine life in the Gulf

With over 2,000 species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this section could be much larger! Included here is info about various species, including endangered species, and the threats posed by the fossil fuel industry.

St. Lawrence River: 334 spills in 10 years

April 22nd, 2015
A boat near Trois-Rivières, Que., leaked at least 10,000 litres into the St. Lawrence River in December 2014. (Credit: Radio-Canada)

A boat near Trois-Rivières, Que., leaked at least 10,000 litres into the St. Lawrence River in December 2014. (Credit: Radio-Canada)


St.Lawrence River: 334 spills in 10 years
CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2015 7:32 AM ET

There were 334 spills involving ships in the St. Lawrence River between February 2002 and November 2012, according to federal documents obtained by Radio-Canada.

The documents also show the limits of the system used by the federal and provincial governments to track the extent of spills and their potential environmental impacts.

Most of the cases involved diesel, but the documents indicate fuel oil, heavy oil and lubricating oil also leaked into the river.

The amounts varied:

– Half of the spills were for an amount less than 10 litres.
– One-quarter were for between 10 and 50,000 litres.
– One-quarter were of an “unknown quantity.”

A ship near Trois-Rivières, for example, leaked an unknown amount of diesel into the water in December 2014.

Neither the provincial nor federal governments could say how much of the 22,000 litres of diesel on the ship went into the water.

Michel Plamondon, a spokesman for the Canadian Coast Guard, said “10,000 litres of pure hydrocarbons were recovered,” but said it’s impossible to know how much additional oil leaked into the water.

That’s a major problem according to Steven Guilbeault, the co-founder and senior director of the environmental group Équiterre.

co-founder and senior director of the environmental group Équiterre.

Steven Guilbeault, co-founder and senior director of Équiterre. (Credit: Équiterre)

“We have no information, so is it tens of thousands of litres that end up in the Saint Lawrence River and all of a sudden we’re wondering why beluga whales are doing so bad and the species is declining? We should know. We should have better information,” Guilbeault said, adding that much of the onus falls on the companies to report the extent of spills.

The numbers detailed in the documents don’t include spills stemming from a source other than a ship, such as the generator leak at the water filtration plant in Longueuil.

Transport Canada said it could not comment on the numbers Radio-Canada obtained, but a spokeswoman told CBC News that reporting spills is a complex process. She said there are many factors that can influence how a spill is reported — such as where the ship is located when it begins to leak — which in turn can affect which government body is responsible for the cleanup.

Excerpted from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/st-lawrence-river-334-spills-in-10-years-1.2917475

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Interprovincial Panel Explores Impacts of Fossil Fuel Development in Newfoundland

February 15th, 2015

On Sunday, February 1st, 2015, a public forum and panel discussion was held in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University. Forum Photo Irene with CaptionThe panel included Irene Novaczek, adjunct professor of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island; Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River Mi’kmaq Tribal Nation; and economist Michael Bradfield, a member of Nova Scotia’s review panel for hydraulic fracturing..
The forum and panel presentations made the connections between the issue of Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador and broader regional concerns related to oil development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The meeting was well attended, as well as informative, with many community members sharing viewpoints in a lively public forum on the health and welfare of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, oil development and fracking.

The forum was organized and hosted by representatives of the Social Justice Co-operative http://www.socialjusticecoopnl.ca/ and Newfoundland and Labrador representatives of the  Save our Seas and Shores  organization   http://saveourseasandshores.ca/  as well as other supportive individuals in the community.

For further coverage on the public forum, The Western Star and The Telegram have published excellent articles on the event. Bob Diamond’s Letter to the Editor of the Western Star offers a wonderful summary of the afternoon panel and discussion. The public forum is available to view in its entirety here.

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St. Lawrence Coalition Releases Gulf 101 Report

June 12th, 2014
Credit: Andrea Schaffer via Flickr
Credit: Andrea Schaffer via Flickr

After four years of research by the St. Lawrence Coalition, Gulf 101 – Oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Facts, Myths, and Future Outlook was released last week (June 10th 2014) in tandem with World Oceans Week. The report explores the facts and myths surrounding oil exploration and exploitation in the Gulf as well as possible future scenarios that may result from these activities.

The 80-page report highlights our lack of understanding towards the ecosystems within the Gulf as well as the oceans currents and other environmental components found there. The environment of the Gulf is subject to conditions that are not seen in other areas of oil development such as winter ice that would make cleaning up an oil spill almost impossible, threatening the destruction of the slowly recovering cod stocks as well as the currently thriving fisheries and tourism industries that so many communities depend on.

The report provides true insight for why Save Our Seas and Shores and the St. Lawrence Coalition asks you to lend your support to a moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf. Go here to take action!

The Gulf 101 Report generated massive media attention in all five Gulf provinces. Here is a selection:

Newfoundland

The Telegram: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3755759/Group-calls-for-oil-and-gas-moratorium-in-the-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1

Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald: http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1206569-hunt-for-oil-gas-in-gulf-of-st-lawrence-questioned

CBC Nova Scotia: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/groups-call-for-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-and-gas-moratorium-1..2669369

Prince Edward Island:

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-06-09/article-3756428/Group-calls-for-moratorium-on-drilling-in-Gulf-of-St.-Lawrence/1

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-06-10/article-3757764/Oceans-Day-reminds-us-to-protect-the-Gulf/1

Quebec

CBC News Montreal (online): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/moratorium-on-gulf-of-st-lawrence-oil-exploration-sought-1.2669637 (June 9)

Go hear to read the Press Release on the report from the David Suzuki Foundation:

English: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2014/06/groups-and-first-nations-in-five-provinces-demand-a-stop-oil-and-gas-activities/

French: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/fr/medias/communiques-de-presse/2014/06/des-groupes-et-premieres-nations-des-cinq-provinces-exigent-un-arret-des-activit/

 

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Widespread collapse of scallop fishery reported in Port au Port Bay, Newfoundland

February 7th, 2014

Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee

MEDIA RELEASE

February 7, 2014

Fishery Committee Concerned about Collapse of the Scallop Fishery and Threats to the Marine Ecosystem in Port au Port Bay

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is intending to act on their concerns about the collapse of the Scallop Fishery and threats to the local Marine Ecosystem,

The Committee which met Monday evening, February 3, 2014 in Port au Port East has created subcommittees and an action plan to deal with their concerns.

Scallop fishermen in the Port au Port Bay Region reported that they have never experienced such a widespread collapse of the scallop fishery in the local bay. Laboratory test results on scallops submitted to the Federal Department of Fisheries last November have been inconclusive as to the cause of the collapse. The committee was also disappointed that the scallops were not tested for petroleum contaminants. The fishermen also report that  sea urchins have gone and there is a big decline in  rock crab.

Local fishermen believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil/industrial developments in the area, may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops. Fishery Committee member Captain Gus Hynes says that he and his crew are quite concerned that developments have been occurring around Port au Port Bay without due regard to their impact on scallops and other marine species.

Fishery Committee members believe that past government environmental assessments done under the jurisdiction of the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board are not adequately protecting fishery interests and the marine environment. The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change. The risks associated with rapid rate of coastal erosion caused by extreme weather and tidal surges in the area are self evident such as the recent wash- outs of sections of the Piccadilly Main Road; Fox Island Road, and the main roadway to the Shoal Point drilling site.

Bill O’Gorman, scallop diver and Fishery Committee spokesperson, says the name of the area “Shoal” Point should have set off enough bells and red lights to warrant at least some reference in the 2007 Environmental Assessment to the risk involved with drilling at such a vulnerable site. ‘The alarming fact is that drilling was approved on an exposed shoal at the tip of a point jutting out some eight kilometres towards the centre of Port au Port Bay.” Mr. O’ Gorman believes that the environmental and health risks of oil drilling on a shoal are more serious today due to  increasing extreme weather, rising ocean levels and tidal surges – all related to climate change

Boswarlos resident, Andrew Harvey,  a fisherman for thirty-seven years, has been recording storms and other weather conditions in the Port au Port Bay area.  He has noticed the increasing frequency of storms and the intensity of the storm surges.  Andrew speculates, based on the rate of coastal erosion at Shoal Point that the latest  drill site at  the end of the point will be ” pretty well washed away within the next five to ten years”

Other problems at Shoal Point that concerns the Fishery Committee are pollution issues and lack of remediation and environmental restoration at abandoned drilling sites at Shoal Point. “There was no mention in the 2007 Environmental Assessment of past oil drilling sites that were once on land and are now off shore with oil from derelict pipes polluting the coastal environment.” Many area residents and tourists such as Bill Duffenais and Karen Smith, who have a cabin and shed threatened by coastal erosion at Shoal Point, have reported the presence of drilling pipes jutting vertically out of the water off Shoal Point. Troy Duffy, local Environmental Protection Officer and members of the Fishery Committee have   verified and documented the existence of these pipes, oil slicks and smell of petroleum in the area. Larry Hicks, a Provincial Department of Resources geologist, has indicated that there may be as many as fifteen abandoned drilling sites in the Shoal Point area which are in various states of deterioration.

There were also no public consultation meetings or forums conducted as part of the  original 2007 Environmental Assessment Process which ended with the approval of the last drilling project at Shoal Pont. The Fishery Committee believes that this environmental process facilitated by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C -NLOPB0) was invalid, undemocratic and failed the residents of the region. The C-NLOPB were in conflict of interest by being responsible for facilitating oil and gas development and also being responsible for worker safety and environmental protection. The Fishery Committee supports Judge Robert Wells main recommendation in his Report on Offshore Safety that the Federal and Provincial Governments should create a Safety and Environmental Protection Agency separate from the C-NLOPB.

Related to the 2007 Assessment was the 2010 request from Shoal Pont Energy to amend the 2007 Environmental Assessment to allow Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking). Fracking possibly would have been approved at this site if it were not for the intervention of the regional Fracking Awareness Groups and others.

With reference to the Provincial Government’s Turn Back The Tide Climate Change Initiative the Fishery Committee is calling upon the Provincial Government to do a study and assessment of climate change impacts on Shoal Point and other sensitive areas such as the coastal road near Fox Island River.

The Fishery Committee is requesting that the Provincial and Federal Governments should say no to Hydraulic Fracturing at Shoal Point due to well documented, unacceptable risks. As an alternative they should do what they are promoting in the provincial government’s Turn Back The Tide Advertising Campaign – act on climate change by developing new and clean renewable energy – wind, tidal, thermal and solar.

The objectives of the Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee  are:

1.  Determine why the scallops are dying in Port au Port Bay.

2.  Study and monitor the marine ecology of Port au Port Bay

3.  Promote a healthy marine ecosystem

4.  Preserve the species that are dying off

5.  Preserve the fishery as a way of life.

 

 

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Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ A Unique Ecosystem

January 27th, 2014

This 32 page report presents the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a unique marine ecosystem that features complex oceanographic processes and also maintains a high biological diversity of marine life. The information provided covers physical systems such as the properties of water, physical oceanography and geological components. The biological aspects include descriptions of macrophytic, planktonic and benthic communities, reptiles, fish, marine birds and mammals. There is also a discussion on the human components such as settlement, industrial activity and governance. By providing relevant information in this format the report highlights the challenge of managing multiple human activities within the context of a dynamic, diverse and unique marine ecosystem. It was produced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2005.

Gulf of St. Lawrence A Unique Ecosystem DFO

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Offshore seismic testing puts wildlife at risk, biologist fears ~ Halifax Media Co-op

November 21st, 2013

Are blasting airguns jeopardizing Atlantic Ocean’s ecosystem?

by Robert Devet
Halifax Media Co-op
November 21, 2013

K’JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas production is on the upswing. Natural gas is flowing from the Deep Panuke natural gas field on the Scotian Shelf.

And now there are two new kids on the block. This time it’s oil they are after.

Shell Canada spent the summer mapping the geology of a large area in the Shelburne Basin about 300 kilometers south east of Halifax. Next summer BP Exploration (Canada) will follow suit.

Shell for one is happy with the results of its discovery effort. “The initial indication is that the data we’re seeing looks really good,” Shell spokesperson Larry Lalonde told the Chronicle Herald in early September of this year. “We’re quite excited about what we are seeing.”

But local environmental activists are worried. And the concern is not just about spills like the one we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Concerns emerge even in this early discovery stage when geologists are determining how much oil there really is, and where exactly that oil can be found.

Problem is, that discovery process is a very noisy affair.

Seismic testing involves the use of airguns fired from moving ships. The airguns generate loudblasts below the ocean’s surface approximately every 20 seconds. The nature of the resulting seismic waves allow geologists to map the geological strata below the ocean floor.

Many environmentalists believe that the noise generated by airguns, almost as loud as dynamite explosions, has a profoundly negative effect on fish, sea turtles and whales in the seismic testing area.

Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlkely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.

Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlikely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.

Lindy Weilgart, a Dalhousie University research associate in Biology, has studied the effects of seismic testing on marine wildlife since she was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University

Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University

“When the airgun is fired you actually see a bubble coming to the surface, air is released under incredibly high pressure, and with a very sharp onset,” says Weilgart. “One shot, and if you don’t have ear protectors on you can go deaf.”

Weilgart is not just worried that sea creatures find themselves too close to the airguns and suffer permanent hearing damage. There are other reasons why seismic testing is particularly hard on ocean dwellers, says Weilgart.

Although under water sound drops off faster, it carries much further than it does on land. The sound of the airguns can be heard as far as 4,000 kilometers away. Combine that with how crucial sound is for fish and sea mammals, and you have a big problem.

“Often it is the quiet signals that are important,” says Weilgart. “For instance, fin whales have to listen for the sounds of potential mates, to meet up. For them it could mean the difference between a mating opportunity or not.”

And not just whales. Weilgart mentions studies that show that fish make very poor decisions about handling their prey when in a noisy environment. Even squid are affected.

The impact of seismic testing on ocean wildlife is complex. Weilgart gives example after example to drive home this point.

“We have to look at it in the way the animal experiences it, we have to be animal-centric,” says Weilgart. And behaviour isn’t always a good indicator of what is really going on.

“Sometimes the most vulnerable and most desperate of the individuals will stay, not because they aren’t bothered by the seismic testing, but because they can’t afford to leave, they don’t have the luxury,” says Weilgart.

Sea creatures are not just facing this one seismic survey, they are dealing with other noise sources as well, says Weilgart. Ships, the bow thrusters of oil platforms, the seismic ships themselves make noise.

Then there is stress caused by overfishing and loss of prey, climate change and warming of the oceans, acidification, the list goes on.

Environmental approval for this summer’s seismic testing by Shell was granted by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an independent joint federal-provincial agency that regulates all offshore oil and gas activities.

It’s written approval of this summer’s seismic testing effort states that it is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, especially given the precautionary measures to which Shell has committed.

Those precautionary measures consist of independent monitors who travel on board of the ships and watch for whales and turtles, and sensors that pick up sounds made by whales below the ocean surface. Work stops immediately when there is any sign that such ocean wildlife is present.

Mark Butler, Policy Director at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, does not think that is good enough.

What monitors are able to observe is just the tip of the iceberg, Butler says. Thick fog and big waves can make it very difficult to see a tail flick somewhere in that vast expanse of ocean.

Butler is also not happy that the exploration by Shell was taking place during the summer. He believes that it is better to stop seismic testing during sensitive periods.

“People don’t realize how much life comes into our waters in the spring and summer to feed, it’s like a highway out there,” says Butler.

This is why Butler asked that Shell postpone the seismic testing until later in the year, but Shell refused, arguing that the project was already approved and that bad weather in winter was too much of a risk to the crew.

“If you are striving, as some would perhaps suggest, for no environmental impact than there would be no man-made activities on land or on sea,” says Stuart Pinks, CEO of the Offshore Petroleum Board.

“But the purpose of the environmental assessment is to make sure that there is no significant adverse impact and to minimize any impact that has been identified to the lowest extent possible,” Pinks says.

Minimizing impact may be a matter of degree, but for Weilgart we’re not cautious enough.

“You can’t keep asking the animal to adapt, there is not enough luxury and play in the system,” says Weilgart. “The oceans are not doing well, and now you are throwing this at them.”

“At the very minimum you have to be precautionary.”

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/offshore-seismic-testing-puts-wildlife-risk-biolog/19939

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Krill ~ a key component of the ocean ecosystem

May 22nd, 2013
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Krill (Photo: Oceana.org)

Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans found in all of the world’s oceans. As a key component of the ocean ecosystem, krill are directly linked to the survival of many marine species.

Many seabirds, whales and fish rely on krill as an integral part of their diets. Worldwide, ocean wildlife is estimated to consume between 150 and 300 million metric tons of krill each year.

Wild salmon eat krill; it’s what makes their meat healthy and pink. The blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived, feeds exclusively on tiny krill. Emperor penguins march hundreds of miles every year to eat krill.

Krill are harvested to feed farmed fish, removing a food source for the wild creatures that depend on them. The results could be catastrophic for the marine food web.

From Oceana.org

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A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale: Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies ~ new report from Oceana

May 3rd, 2013

From the US based group Oceana.org

According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the East Coast if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas.seismic_report_cover

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of oil and gas companies, to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound, which are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.

These loud blasts are used on a recurring basis, going off every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, often for weeks on end. They are so loud that they penetrate through the ocean, and miles into the seafloor, then bounce back, bringing information to the surface about the location of buried oil and gas deposits.

Airgun blasts harm whales, dolphins, sea turtles and fish. The types of impacts marine mammals may endure include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings and even death. Seismic airguns could devastate marine life, and harm fisheries and coastal economies along the Atlantic coast. Seismic testing in the Atlantic would also be the first major step toward offshore drilling, which further harms the marine environment through leaks, oil spills, habitat destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.

This seismic testing, and all of the consequences that may ensue, are unnecessary because there cannot be any drilling in the Atlantic for at least the next five years, and oil and gas companies already own undeveloped leases on millions of acres of federal lands and water.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #seismic

Watch this short video – What is Seismic Airgun Testing?

Download a copy of “A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale: Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies” (PDF)
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Click here to learn more about seismic testing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

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Sierra Club Atlantic’s Earth Day message highlights protection of Gulf of St. Lawrence and endangered blue whale

April 22nd, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

I never thought I’d say this, but right now climate change may be least of the blue whale’s problems.

Our federal and provincial governments have not stepped up to stop oil and gas development and protect habitat for the endangered blue whale – and the thousands of other creatures that live in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

blue whales

If Corridor and other oil companies get their way, we could have an oil spill like BP’s in the blue whale’s highway – a major migratory pathway for these amazing creatures, the largest mammals on the planet! A BP-scale oil spill would coat the beaches and shorelines of five of Canada’s ten provinces. Blue whales and their calves already navigate an underwater world that is blaring with man-made noise, criss-crossed by ship traffic, and thrown into chaos by climate change.

But they would not survive an oil spill.

The original Earth Day happened before I was born. But I know one of the major reasons for having this annual day to celebrate our connection to the Earth was a major oil spill that marred the coast of California, smothering dolphins and seals.

We need your help now more than ever to stand up for the Gulf of St Lawrence  – for the blue whale, for our heritage, and for our future! Become a member of Sierra Club today!

Sierra Club members have been standing up for wild spaces like the Gulf for decades, as well as pushing for clean green solutions to climate change – solutions that we know are at our fingertips!

But it’s not just the Gulf that we are committed to protecting. With your help, we are committed to tackling the big issues facing our region and Canada, like fracking and promoting truly sustainable economic opportunities. When you join Sierra Club, you help us:

– Fight the destruction of our environmental laws;
– Stop pipeline projects that enhance the expansion of the tar sands;
– Promote practical and sustainable solutions to climate change like renewable energy and energy efficiency; and
– Work with children and youth to foster love of nature and community engagement.

Your membership also allows you to enjoy the regular updates on national and local issues, participate in action alerts, and have a say in our organization by voting for our leaders.

Most importantly, you will find out how to be a force for change.  By joining Sierra Club, you will know that your support has made a difference!

Please join us or make an Earth Day membership gift to make sure our worst fears for the blue whale do not become a reality!

Sincerely,

Gretchen Fizgerald
Director
Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter

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Canadian singer-songwriter pens song for the Gulf “Disregard the Fish”

April 6th, 2013

Watch “Disregard the Fish” – a protest song against oil and gas development in the Gulf featuring singer-songwriter Lizzie Shanks on vocals, soaring over imagery of the existing beauty of the now pristine Gulf of St. Lawrence, juxtaposed against the devastating realities in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. theheliotropeproject

Save Our Seas and Shores is grateful to Lizzie Shanks and Carey Gurden of  The Heliotrope Project for the gift of this moving vocal and visual tribute to the Gulf! Spread it around folks!

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