Sea camps even more significant with oil threat in gulf - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sea camps even more significant with oil threat in gulf

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - With the oil spill crisis likely to linger through summer, educators say it's more important than ever to teach kids about protecting our marine resources. That's why annual programs like Sea & Sail Camp take on added significance this year.

There were some wide-eyed youngsters at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies on Friday morning.

"If it's kind of straight up and down like that, and you step on it, it might hurt you 'cause it's kind of pointy," said the instructor, as he showed the kids a healthy horseshoe crab.

Sea & Sail campers gathered around the touch tank.

"They move really quickly, 'cause their bodies are so soft," said the educator, Justin, as he showed the kids a hermit crab. It's a favorite exhibit on the busy morning agenda at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

"We're learning about horseshoe crabs and blue crabs.  Fish too," said Arley Scarborough of Gulfport.

And while the kids are keenly interested in the touch tank creatures, they're also well aware of that three letter word affecting the gulf waters: Oil.

"Well, it's hurting animals. And when animals breathe underwater, they breathe in oil," said Scarborough.

The kids are learning all about horseshoe crabs.

"And then this one doesn't have it. See how this one is just all claws," said the patient teacher, lifting another of the hard shelled creatures.

And you might be surprised what a seven-year-old knows about the oil crisis threatening our marine environment.

"They're putting something on the other side of Deer Island to soak up all the oil. And they're orange. And there's pipes. One of the pipes busted and started making oil in the Gulf of Mexico," said Thomas Tansey.

It's a lesson that includes the importance of caring for our sea creatures and marine environment.

Nancy Smith is an instructor with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

"We hope that this will help them become good stewards of the earth. I think it's critical that you start when they're young, even younger than this. And that way they'll be able to follow conservation and utilize the resources properly," she said.

"When they suck up a bunch of water, they'll pop off this shell," said the instructor, picking up a blue crab.

The annual Sea & Sail Camp is sponsored by the Biloxi Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum.  The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies also has its own Ocean Expo-Summer Camp for youngsters this summer.

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