Video: BP’s Oil Spill—Lost Islands and Relocated Birds

Candice Gaukel Andrews May 28, 2015 8
Cat Island, Louisiana, was a 5.5-acre refuge for a variety of shorebirds. From the video “Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated this Island,” ©National Geographic

In 2012, Cat Island, Louisiana, was a 5.5-acre refuge for a variety of shorebirds. From the video “The Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated this Island,” ©National Geographic

The many news reports regarding the consequences of rapid climate change have made us all familiar with the fact that some islands may soon disappear due to rising sea levels. But you may be surprised to learn that an offshore oil spill has already caused the destruction of an island.

After the oil spill, the island’s skeleton disintegrated. From the video “The Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated this Island,” ©National Geographic

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 devastated Cat Island, once one of Louisiana’s four largest rookeries for brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets and a variety of other shorebirds. The oil accumulated in the island’s mangroves, killing the root system that was the framework holding the island together. For the past five years, Cat Island’s sediment has been washing away into the Gulf of Mexico, and migratory birds that have the place imprinted have watched as one of their home grounds disappeared before their eyes. Normally, chicks born on the island would return every year to breed. Unfortunately, when an imprinted site disappears, the birds don’t go out and simply find a new location; instead, they just don’t breed. Thus, generations are being lost.

Today, in 2015, we’re just beginning to learn how much the coastal wetlands in the area of the spill are changing. Ecological damage can happen in subtle and lingering ways that may not be evident for decades after a disaster. Some research suggests that the spill is still harming sea life, causing a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins and corals, damage to the hearts of baby tuna and injury to killifish DNA.

Today, two lifeless sandbars are all that remain. From the video “The Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated this Island,” ©National Geographic

Watch the two videos below, produced by National Geographic. In the first, The Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated this Island, the irreparable damage to Cat Island is depicted. The second video, Relocated Gulf Pelicans “Enjoying” Texas, is a bit more uplifting. Much like relocating Africa’s rhinos to keep them safe from poachers, it appears we sometimes need to shift the birds of our own country to keep them away from the damage we cause and the echoes of an oil spill that will be felt for generations.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,



  1. Susan Cardullo Topping June 9, 2015 at 10:38 am - Reply

    OH my I am praying for them. Poor pelicans, I hope they find their way!!

  2. Michael R Cunningham June 4, 2015 at 4:35 am - Reply

    If only birds could talk or write they might all be on strike….reproduction strike, worse than a hunger strike just imagine loosing all want of sex and children!….for the inhumanity of the human race. Protesting on their island. This is a great indicator of what pollution is doing on so many levels. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ramakrishna Venkatasamy May 30, 2015 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing these videos Candice, and it shows that while some are busy polluting and destroying, others are busy trying to put things right. I wonder whether BP is fully aware of the damage caused, and if such risks were also taken into consideration when the Arctic drilling was approved?

  4. Bert Harte May 30, 2015 at 4:27 am - Reply

    While we simply try to give a safe haven for a few birds in our backyard, thousands parish around the corner.
    Wouldn’t children of oil magnates love to see birds live and breed happily if their parents don’t give a good example?

  5. Rick Asensio May 30, 2015 at 4:26 am - Reply

    B.P, just as reliable as Shell on environmental protection and stewardship!

  6. Thomas Sawyer May 30, 2015 at 4:24 am - Reply

    A bittersweet story of mankind’s opposites-destruction and restoration (although limited). The preference however, is obvious-prevention.

  7. Solomon Edwards OJIAMBO May 30, 2015 at 4:23 am - Reply

    Thanks for the insight Candice. I hope this opens their eyes beyond the money.

  8. Len Rosen May 30, 2015 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this article and videos. The damage to mangroves obviously was not limited to this nesting island and I am sure that Louisiana’s coastline will experience similar shoreline loss where mangroves were killed off by the spill. BP has really gotten off quite cheaply from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Gulf environment and its wildlife will be paying the price for decades to come.

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