Wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico will soon be getting a helping hand from the Valley.
Ed Clark with the Wildlife Center of Virginia has been working in wildlife conservation for 30 years, but he says he has never seen anything like the Gulf Coast oil spill before.
"This is perhaps one of the most complicated environmental disasters or potential environmental disasters we have ever seen," says Clark.
According to Clark, the dramatic images of birds covered in slick oil is just the start of the problem.
"The oily birds, as devastating as it is to the individuals and as horrible and heart wrenching as it is to see, that could actually be the easy part of this spill," comments Clark.
He says the more devastating effects could be on the ecosystem. For example, blue fin tuna only have two breeding grounds worldwide, one of which is in the Gulf of Mexico.
"[Blue fin tuna] spawning grounds may well be contaminated and ruined, and that means that the most valuable fish in the ocean could disappear," explains Clark.
For that reason, he is heading down with a team of five other experts to assess the situation and make sure the crisis isn't forgotten once the oily birds are cleaned.
"We need to be sure that systems are put in place to monitor the environmental impacts over time. We need to be sure that funding is guaranteed and put in place," says Clark. "This oil spill is not a natural disaster. It's not a hurricane. It's not an earthquake. It's not an act of God. It is an act of BP."
According to Clark, the damage won't be limited to animals that live in the Gulf Coast. He says several species migrate through the area, and it will be necessary to track the impacts on them as well.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia is hoping to help solve that problem with a tracking system for centers nationwide. It's been working on the system for a decade, but because of the oil spill, it plans to have the system ready by the end of the month.
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