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Take a Ride as FWC Patrol Vessel Hunts for Oil

By Trimmel Gomes


Tallahassee, FL – Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is monitoring the state's waters daily, doing oil recognizance missions. Trimmel Gomes hopped on board one of the division's four large offshore patrol vessels to get the latest on the spill situation in the Gulf.

Lieutenant Rama Shuster is at the helm of the Orion, a vessel built in 1977 that has spent most of its life in Key West protecting the Tortugas shrimp nurseries. Over the years it has been used to help stop the smuggling of drugs and people, but these days it's being used to find oil.

"We're going to run out to Pensacola Pass, take a look at some boom that was put out for quick deployment around the pass, and see if we see any sign of oil sheen or tar balls or tar mats."

As we slowly approach the Pensacola Pass, things are looking good. There are no signs of oil, just a lot of other boats that are part of the oil recovery project.
An update comes in from another boat at the Florida/Alabama state line. The person on the radio stresses that he's seeing a significant amount of sheen in water. The sheen is being described as orange-ish, south of the Perdido Pass in Alabama, moving east. Shuster says this information, hearing that oil is getting closer to shore, is key.

"At this point, it's very important to know where the oil is at, plot it and have trajectories of where we expect landfall."

Shuster will help carry out this mission every day. He says once the oil becomes more heavily concentrated and starts making landfall on beaches, his mission will change.