xml:space="preserve">

The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association is urging the state's elected officials and environment agencies to plan for the worst should the Gulf oil spill make its way up the East Coast and into Maryland waters.

"Maryland's recreational anglers provide this state with a tremendous value and they depend upon the health of its marine and coastal resources, and having a plan in place for the effects of the oil spill off our coast is a logical first step to mitigate any damage," said Dave Smith, MSSA executive director.

Advertisement

Anglers are worried that the Loop Current, a major ocean current that rotates in a clockwise direction in the Gulf of Mexico, could carry the oil and chemical dispersants down the west coast of Florida, past the Keys and into the Gulf Stream, Smith said.

If the toxic plume reaches the Gulf Stream and is carried north to Cape Hatteras, N.C., it could wreak havoc on the marine and coastal life that recreational fishermen enjoy, he said. The spill also could harm several year classes of sport fish.

In a pre-Memorial day briefing, the Maryland Department of the Environment told Gov. Martin O'Malley that "it is extremely unlikely" that the spill will reach the state's beaches and wetlands.

Computer models used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that oil reaching the Loop Current would take 8-10 days to reach the Florida Keys. The slick would be less concentrated and continue to degrade as it moved up the coast on the Gulf Stream.

NOAA scientists say they do not expect spill residue--in the form of tar balls--to reach any further up the East Coast than Cape Hatteras.

MDE officials believe any impact here would take the form of tar balls or an oily sheen. They note that in 1995, beach crews were able to scoop up tar balls that came ashore at Ocean City with their regular trash cleaning equipment.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement