This photo is actually from the 2008 oil spill in San Francisco -- but still gets the point across. Photo via cccpublishing.com
The Gulf Coast -- which stretches across the beaches and marshlands of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas -- has some of the country's most beautiful landscapes, thriving waters, and unique plants. But the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has put a damper on the region's claim as a summer vacation destination by inspiring health officials to discourage swimming, fishing, and other water sports. These seven spots are just a few of the many towns, cities, and beaches impacted by the spill.
1. Cocodrie, Louisiana
The tiny coastal town of Cocodrie, Louisiana, lies at the end of route 56 on the Gulf of Mexico -- and the BBC says that it's a two-block-wide spot with fewer than 300 residents. But if you wanted to go fishing, then the waters of Cocodrie are a good place to start: CoCo Marina, which plans fishing trips, claims that its customers have caught more than 26 different kinds of fish -- and up to 15 different species in just one weekend. Look for redfish, snapper, speckled trout, and more. But as the New York Times reported in May, the alligators that gave Cocodrie its name (the settlers confused the alligators with crocodiles when they named the town) have, in the weeks since the spill, vanished.
2. Pensacola, Florida
Tourism is big business in Pensacola, on Florida's Gulf coast, where, last year, guests who came to take advantage of the pristine beaches, clear water, and family-friendly activities brought in more than $133 million. But this year, tar balls and oil in the water have put all of the county's beaches under a health advisory that discourages swimmers and warns beach goers to take care.
3. Dauphin Island, Alabama
Alabama's Dauphin Island, three miles south of Mobile Bay, is 14 miles long but only 1 3/4 miles at its widest point -- and though only 1,300 people live there year-round, summer vacation increases that number substantially. The clean beaches, public golf course, and easy access to campgrounds make Dauphin Island a favorite travel spot, and the avian populations (the entire island is a dedicated sanctuary) give birdwatchers plenty to do. While workers are laying booms to protect the island from oil washing ashore, the original plan -- to boom the entire state -- fell through.
4. Venice, Louisiana
Like Cocodrie, Venice is a popular spot for fishing -- it's considered one of the best in the world for tuna, and fisherman frequently pull up redfish, red snapper, amberjack, wahoo, marlin, and other species. But this little town, located so far down the southern tip of the state that it's the last stop on the map, is almost completely surrounded by oil, leaving the local fisherman and their seasonal customers with hardly enough space to cast a line.
Even if they could find a spot, few guides are willing to take their boats through the spill and risk stains, and going around it would mean hundreds of miles in detours, according to the Star-Telegram. These shrimp boats are towing booms as a training exercise.