On April 20, 2010, Louisiana was one of many states affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is still the largest marine oil spill in the world, with at least 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf. There was extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and I remember. Louisiana’s fishing industry was hit pretty hard by this as well, due to fears of eating fish and seafood from the Gulf area as well as the disruption from the spill itself.
The Price of Oil
— Wildlife 1st (@Wildlife1st) April 2, 2015
However, from out of the murky depths of oil-choked wetlands and seawater comes one heartwarming story. This is the story of A04, a brown pelican (Louisiana’s State Bird), the first confirmed pelican on Queen Bess Island that experienced the DWH oil spill. Located just over two miles north of Grand Isla, the island, which has been sinking and eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, has less than five acres of suitable habitat for pelicans and other birds. More than 60 species of birds use it as their home, and it is our state’s third-largest colonial waterbird colony.
Meet A04! This Brown Pelican is the first confirmed pelican on Queen Bess Island that experienced the DWH oil spill. A04 was captured in Mississippi on August 3rd, 2010 then released 12 days later. This bird & mate are raising young in a nest built with sticks from @LouisianaGov. pic.twitter.com/1MUJUVDdKF
— LouisianaCPRA (@LouisianaCPRA) May 5, 2020
In March of 2019, an $18.7 million project with only a six-month construction window was granted to restore 37 acres of prime bird nesting habitat on the island. It’s known as a Deepwater Horizon project, but it relied upon the cooperation of many partners. In February 2020, Governor Edwards declared the newly-restored island, home of the Louisiana State Bird, officially reopened for nesting. “I think they’ll like what we’ve done with the place,” he said as he toured the newly rebuilt land. “Before we started this restoration last August, only 5 of the island’s 36 acres were useable for nesting. Now all 36 acres are available and we have plans to keep it that way for years to come.”
During the Grand Reopening Event, Governor Edwards placed sticks that were used by A04 to create a nest for her mate and their young. During the oil spill, A04 was captured in Pass Christian, MS, and released back into the wild 12 days later. “A04 and the rebirth of Queen Bess Island are symbols of Louisiana’s unwavering spirit. When times are tough, we endure, and we come back stronger,” tweeted Governor Edwards today.
— Gov. John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) May 5, 2020
The same can be said for the human spirit. Our challenges often bring us together. We put aside our differences for the good of the whole — for our families, neighbors, and loved ones. We come together for our planet, our children, and ourselves. A04’s journey was long, hard, and shouldn’t go unnoticed. She survived the wrath of the oil industry — but would have died if it wasn’t for the heroes who saved her and countless other wildlife coated in oil. Human nature is often the cause of these disasters, but in the end, love and the spirit of humanity are there to help as well. Hopefully, these good deeds, these united fronts, can do more than encourage and warm our hearts.
Hopefully, these stories will inspire those who have the capacity to do so to help change the world for the better — not just for humans, but for our furry, scaly, winged, clawed, and feathered neighbors out there.