After the Spill: Deepwater Horizon, Part 6
Stories from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Responders

Welcome back to our After the Spill: Deepwater Horizon series where we will be sharing firsthand accounts from Service employees who were on the ground (or the water) in the Gulf during the immediate aftermath of Deepwater Horizon. 

Below you can read Lena Chang’s reflection about her deployment. Lena is a Public Affairs Officer who helped rescue oiled wildlife in Louisiana during the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon.  

Lena Chang, Public Affairs Officer 

Local boat captain Jerry McCullough was hired by BP to carry wildlife rescue teams into the Gulf. VOO stands for Vessels of Opportunity, the name of the boat chartering program. Photo by Phil Kloer/USFWS.

I was deployed to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill at the end of August 2010 on a 14-day assignment to a remote location in Buras, Louisiana…almost as far south as you can go and not be underwater. I was stationed in a fishing lodge that had been converted to a wildlife operations post. We were referred to as “Venice Camp,” charged with R&R — recon and recovery of oiled wildlife. Every day, we’d pair up in teams on boats to scan the waters for any wildlife who needed a rescue. By that time, much of the surface oil had dispersed, and finding oiled wildlife was not nearly as common as it was back in the spring and early summer. Our days were long spent in the scorching sun and thick, humid air, and I’d get nauseous from looking through binoculars on a swaying vessel for hours on end. 

Our boats were operated by local captains who were utilizing their fishing boats as Vessels of Opportunity, or “VOO” — a program that was initiated early on to employ local residents to assist in the response, as their incomes normally generated by fishing and shrimping were paralyzed by the spill. No one could navigate the complicated waters of southern Louisiana better than these captains and their crews who worked over 100 days to support the response. 

We were the last team to operate out of Venice Camp, which had been activated since the first days of the spill. On our final night, the remaining boat captains and their crews and family threw us a proper Louisiana shrimp boil to close out what was undoubtedly, and hopefully, a once in a lifetime experience for all of us. Being a part of this response for an environmental disaster of this magnitude was deeply meaningful, and the friendships made and lessons learned have been lasting and impactful. Spending our days with these hard-working people to help correct the damage done to the environment that was not only their home, but also the source of their livelihoods; and observing their skill, culture, and care from generations of working these waters; became one of the most memorable and valuable experiences of my life. 


Read other firsthand accounts from Service employees in our After the Spill: Deepwater Horizon series. 

Story Tags

BP Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill, 2010