Key West tarballs not from gulf, but BP oil leak heads to Florida

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 By

A sandy beach at Key West, Florida

Tarballs at Key West were not from the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico 2010, but the BP oil leak has entered the Gulf loop current and could arrive on Florida's beaches in 10 days. Flickr photo.

Tarballs showed up at Key West beaches as a preview of coming attractions for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said traces of the BP oil leak are starting to enter the Gulf of Mexico loop current, which could carry the oil spill to Florida in 10 days. Tarball and loop current news isn’t helping the hotels and fishing boats in the gulf, who are battling public perception that the region is covered in oil. Meanwhile, hurricane season begins June 1.

Key West tarballs: false alarm

“Tarballs at Key West” was the latest alarming headline as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 defies an all-out effort to stop the BP oil leak. As it turns out, the Coast Guard said the Key West tarballs didn’t come from the BP oil leak. But even though very little of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reached landfall to date, media coverage of the disaster is threatening to devastate the Gulf Coast tourism and the seafood industry. A region getting by on cash advance loans was anticipating a complete return to pre-Katrina prosperity in 2010, but the oil spill just happened to show up right before another hurricane season officially kicks in on June 1.

Key West tarballs a bad omen

The Tarballs at Key West didn’t come from the gulf oil spill, but the BP oil leak could be arriving on Florida’s shores eventually. The Los Angeles Times reports that a Coast Guard analysis determined conclusively that the Key West tar balls do not match the type of oil from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. But traces of the BP oil leak have started to enter the Gulf of Mexico loop current, a powerful stream of warm water that circulates in and around the gulf, then south to the Florida Keys and the Gulf Stream.

BP oil leak devastating seafood industry

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is putting tens of thousands of Gulf Coast business owners’ and workers’ livelihoods at risk. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded a fishing ban in the Gulf because of the BP oil leak. Now the banned area covers 19 percent of the gulf, nearly doubling the size of waters prohibited to the region’s $2.4 billion seafood industry. USA Today reports that Bayou La Batre, Ala., the “Seafood Capitol of Alabama,” has nearly come to a standstill as shrimping vessels with nothing to do pack the bayou. A shortage of fishable areas could limit shrimp supplies and increase prices.

Key west tarballs undermine Florida tourism

The tarballs at Key West were sticky blobs of congealed oil that occasionally turn up on beaches there. They form from oil dumped from ships’ bilges, leaks from offshore rigs and seepage from other oil wells. Even so, the New York Times reports that under normal circumstances, most hotels in the Florida Panhandle would be fully booked by now for Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of the peak summer tourism season. Since the BP oil leak, plenty of rooms are available. Florida’s department of tourism is fighting back against the BP oil leak with information about Florida’s destinations on its Web site in real time with beach Webcams, Twitter feeds and photos. Gov. Charlie Crist said he had secured $25 million from BP to fund the tourism advertising campaign after an initial $25 million went to disaster preparation and response.

Gulf of Mexico loop current

The tarballs at Key West could be a sneak peak of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 for Florida’s beaches. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco told the Associated Press that aerial surveys show some tendrils of light oil close to or already in the loop current, but most of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico remained dozens of miles away from the current as of Wednesday. Lubchenco says it will take about eight to 10 days after oil enters the Gulf of Mexico loop current before it begins to reach Florida. But scientists from the University of South Florida are forecasting it could reach Key West by Sunday.

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