Ship Island Excursions operator fears oil is imminent - - The News for South Mississippi

Ship Island Excursions operator fears oil is imminent


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

SHIP ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - Captain Louis Skrmetta of Ship Island Excursions fears it's only a matter of time before oil begins washing ashore on the barrier island.

Skrmetta's boat, the Gulf Islander, headed for Ship Island Monday under clearing skies and a northerly breeze. But instead of sun-seeking tourists aboard, this cruise was filled with media representatives and environmental advocates.

"Without these barrier islands, you'd have a lot more damage on the mainland after a hurricane. So these islands are very important," Skrmetta explained to visitors.

Thankfully, there were no signs of any oil intrusion on the beautiful south beach on Ship Island.

Skrmetta is quick to explain to visitors that the black colored sand is not oil, it's the naturally occurring titanium that washes ashore on the island.

Sadly, Captain Skrmetta fears the "writing is on the wall." The beautiful island he talks about so passionately is a likely target for the still moving oil slick.

"Biggest concern is oil on the beach. It won't be long now. I'm hearing reports or rumors about Cat Island already receiving oil, so I think it's just a matter of maybe three or four days. But it doesn't matter. It's eventually going to get here," he said, shaking his head.

Captain Skrmetta's wife shares her husband's concern and his love for this special place.

"I don't want to say I'm depressed; I want to say I'm hopeful," said Beth Skrmetta. "I have a lot of faith. I'm just concerned. I don't know where we go from here."

Employees of Ship Island Excursions spent part of the afternoon Monday packing up umbrellas and beach chairs. There likely won't be any tourists in the coming weeks, if the oil intrusion hits this barrier island.  

Along with the tourism impact, it's the worst possible time for many wildlife.

"Many species are breeding. They're mating. They're needing food for themselves and their young. And it's a bad time," bird watcher Olivia Graves said.

"They need to stop this thing," said Captain Skrmetta. "Whatever they do, they've got to get it stopped as soon as possible. We can't wait three months for this."

Skrmetta said if the oil starts washing ashore on the barrier island, he expects the National Park Service will close Ship Island to visitors.

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