FWC patrolling the waters of Northwest Florida
Monday, June 21, 2010
Media contact: Katie Fojtik, 850-459-6585
Aboard the Guardian, a 45-foot offshore vessel,
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Lt. Rama
Shuster keeps an eye out for oil on the waters in Gulf, Franklin
and Wakulla counties.
The FWC's mission since the explosion of the
Deepwater Horizon oil platform in late April has been
reconnaissance: tracking the movement of oil along the coast.
Officers are on the water, patrolling the beaches on ATVs and
flying daily missions, monitoring the shoreline and reporting what
Shuster has been on the water for two weeks now.
Last week, he was aboard the Orion, a 50-foot, offshore vessel,
patrolling the waters off Pensacola. Shuster normally captains the
Guardian and is assigned to the Crystal River Field Office in
"We saw quite a bit of product around Pensacola,"
Shuster said. "But it's clear so far around Carrabelle. However,
we're definitely keeping a watch for any product that we might
When Shuster and his crew do find oil, they will
determine the exact location, photograph what they see and then
send the report back to the Florida Emergency Operations Center in
"We've also had FWC biologists and personnel from
our partner agencies on board with us so they can also view the
waters," Shuster said. "We have been taking water samples at the
surface and from the bottom in areas where fishermen have made
reports of oil sightings and interviewing the fishermen to get as
much information as possible."
As of June 18, the FWC has 75 vessels working the
water patrol from the state line to Wakulla County. The vessels
will be moved as needed for reconnaissance, and more boats will be
added if required.
"The good news is I haven't seen any oiled wildlife
yet," Shuster said. "All the birds I'm seeing today on patrol seem
healthy and appear to be free of oil. Some of the other crews
haven't been as fortunate. They have seen some oiled animals."
Those animals were documented and recovered.
"Our secondary mission while we're out here is
directing the cleanup crews to the product we find. We make sure
they have the proper coordinates and are able to locate the oil. We
don't do the cleanup but we help the contractors get to the areas
that need work," Shuster said. "We also keep the EOC informed as to
how many cleanup vessels are in the area and their locations.
"Friday, we ran 37 miles south of Carrabelle to an
area where a fisherman reported oil."
At that location, the boat crew took six samples at
the surface, mid-water column and on the bottom. They then
took samples in a quarter-mile radius around the coordinates and
found no traces of oil.
"Even though we are not finding oil over here to
the east, it's just as important to investigate these reports and
keep the fisherman informed so they can continue to enjoy the
waters before the oil does move in," Shuster said.
Shuster doesn't know how long he'll be deployed to
Northwest Florida but anticipates that it's a long-term event.
"We'll do whatever it takes to protect the
resources and people of Florida," he said. "That's our job
and we're going to do it to the best of our ability."