Tropical Storm Karen Leaves Tar Balls on the Beach

Residents across the Gulf Coast breathed a sigh of relief last weekend as Tropical Storm Karen dissipated (and as an added bonus, the humidity dropped). But as many of us feared, the storm kicked up more oil in the Gulf as it passed, and a fresh batch of tar balls have washed ashore on Grand Isle, La.

This is an ugly reminder that oil still lurks offshore, and we have not yet seen the end of the oil’s impacts on the Gulf.

Studies are still underway to confirm that the oil in the tar balls matches the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard has ordered BP to clean up the area. Last year, Hurricane Isaac brought tar mats to the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama, one of which stretched 165 feet across the beach.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are a part of life in the Gulf region, and since the BP disaster, we must be prepared for tar balls and tar mats to continue to wash up. Long-term monitoring of the marine environment is crucial to keep our finger on the pulse of the Gulf.

Science is one of the best tools we have to predict if, how and where we can expect to see continued impacts of oil in our marine and coastal environments. To find out more about how the Gulf works as well as the habitats and wildlife the Gulf supports, check out our new atlas.

BP is on trial again this month to determine how much oil was released in the 87 days it took BP to cap the Macondo well. As the debates continue, it’s important to remember that even though the well was capped on July 15, 2010, the repercussions of this disaster will be felt for years to come.

Have you spotted tar balls on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Tropical Storm Karen? Call 800-424-8802 or visit to report it.

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