Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water…

A year ago most of us were concerned by the 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil spillage in the Gulf of México. Today there is little news on the spillage. The Gulf has absorbed much of the oil, much of it has been dispersed by chemicals and much cleaned up from the sea shore. It seems some of the marine life is safe and prospering; although in certain cases there has been irremediable damage to the environment. BP has paid up some of the money for the cleanup operation and will doubtless pay more: the outrage has died down and you would be hard pushed to read about the Deepwater Horizon consequences in the newspapers. You may well think that the oil industry will simply get on with oil extraction, lessons have been learned and changes implemented to the safety region. You may be mostly right.

You may think it safe to go back into the water. There are exceptions. You would not go into the water off the coast of Fukushima or the warmer arctic waters when polar bears are now very hungry, finding it hard to catch food and you would steer clear of Torness near the nuclear power station in Scotland which has suffered from an infestation of jellyfish. You would not go to the algae rich oxygen depleted parts of the Great Barrier Reefof parts of the sea polluted by other human activity, in some places a mess of chemicals and sewage.

You probably would have no objection into going into those parts of the sea which constitute a sea desert. Some 2.5 million square miles of Pacific Ocean which were once green with plankton is now blue with emptiness. You will be alone there. On second thoughts what is the point of getting into a water desert; far better to use a swimming pool.

All of the parts of the sea that you would not wish to go into have been affected by human activity, whether it is pollution, warming the ocean by using it as a heat exchanger for a nuclear reactor, algae growth caused by fertiliser run off, simple human pollution or more complex human effect on the sea caused by climate change, which in itself is almost certainly caused by humanity. The common denominator of these danger areas is humanity. Sharks may be dangerous in the sea, but nowhere near as dangerous as man.

Another area of sea is affected by humanity. It is the turn of the sea around the Shell Gannet Piper oil platform 110 miles off the coast of Aberdeen. Here a mere 2,000 barrels of oil has leaked (so far) from the Shell platform and the leak is apparently under control although I am at the time of writing unsure whether the leak has been stopped entirely. Anyway, it is nearly safe to go into the water there, because the leak is, as leaks go, small and as leaks go, it leaks. It is nearly safe to go into the water, everywhere and nearly safe to eat fish.

The sea is important to us, in many ways. As Charles Trenet sang:

La mer
Les a berces
Le long des golfes clairs
Et d’une chanson d’amour
La mer
A berce mon coeur pour la vie

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