USA TODAY US Edition

Jimmy Buf­fett’s Gulf res­cue mis­sion

Spe­cial boats will work to save trapped an­i­mals

- By Jeff Martin USA TO­DAY Leader Ar­gus

Singer Jimmy Buf­fett and two friends are hop­ing their new res­cue boats could help save birds and ma­rine life un­der threat from the nation’s worst oil spill.

The boats are spe­cially de­signed to tra­verse shal­low marsh­lands, the breed­ing grounds for a wide va­ri­ety of wildlife off the Gulf Coast.

“ Es­sen­tially we sketched some­thing out on a cock­tail nap­kin and came up with the idea,” says Mark Cast­low, a boat builder in Vero Beach, Fla.

That was on the sec­ond day of the dis­as­ter, he says, as he watched im­ages of the spill on tele­vi­sion and saw the need for a boat that could reach the shal­low wa­ters of Gulf Coast es­tu­ar­ies.

Cast­low shared the idea with his friend Buf­fett, who agreed to un­der­write the cost of the $ 43,000 boat, he says. “ I called Jimmy, and he says: ‘ Let’s go for it. Let’s do it,’ ” Cast­low says. “ He’s like all of us. He’s got salt­wa­ter in his veins.”

Short­ages of equip­ment to help con­tain the oil — and res­cue wildlife — have been a re­cur­ring prob­lem since the ex­plo­sion April 20 on the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon drilling rig, says Carys Mitchel­more, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter

Changes in lat­i­tudes:

Florida Gov. Char­lie Crist and Jimmy Buf­fett walk along Pen­sacola Beach, Fla., in early June. Buf­fett is bring­ing spe­cially de­signed boats to the re­gion to help res­cue an­i­mals trapped in oil. for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence.

“ If they can get into those shal­low ar­eas and res­cue any­thing that might be oiled, that’s great,” says Mitchel­more, who has tes­ti­fied be­fore Congress on oil spill pol­lu­tion is­sues. “ If any­body can help out, I think that’s a great idea, es­pe­cially if it’s not go­ing to be cost­ing any­thing.”

Buf­fett, who grad­u­ated from the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Mis­sis­sippi in 1969, met with school pres­i­dent Martha Saun­ders this month to brain­storm ways he might help, says Beth Tay­lor, the uni­ver­sity’s news and me­dia re­la­tions man­ager.

The song­writer then de­cided to do­nate the first boat to the uni­ver­sity’s Gulf Coast Re­search Lab in Ocean Springs, Miss. It’s ex­pected to be de­liv­ered late this week or next week, and Cast­low says there are plans to build three other boats of the same type.

The boat is needed, Tay­lor says, be­cause the lab’s boats are not able to nav­i­gate wa­ters as shal­low as 10 inches deep like the new one be­ing do­nated.

“ Our boats are larger, and they can’t skim around in that shal­low wa­ter,” she says. “ It will be used by our re­searchers and our grad­u­ate stu­dents to go out in the es­tu­ar­ies and marshes.”

Cast­low and Jimbo Meador, a friend and col­league at Cast­low’s Drag­on­fly Boat­works, de­signed the S. W. A. T. boat — an acro­nym for Shal­low Wa­ter At­ten­tion Ter­mi­nal — with a mist­ing sys­tem to keep in­jured wildlife cool af­ter be­ing brought on board in the Gulf ofMex­ico’s sum­mer heat.

“ A canopy en­closes the en­tire boat, and that’s a big deal be­cause now you can work un­der shade and mist­ing,” Cast­low says.

That “ sounds like a great idea, be­cause you could do triage right there,” says Ed Verge, the lead boat-build­ing in­struc­tor at Cape Fear Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Wilm­ing­ton, N. C.

Madi­lyn Fletcher, di­rec­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of South Carolina’s School of the En­vi­ron­ment, says re­duc­ing the stress on in­jured wildlife is key to help­ing an­i­mals re­cover, and the idea sounds sen­si­ble to her.

“ Any­thing that you can do to save these dam­aged birds is all for the bet­ter, and the more you can do to re­duce the stress on them while you are try­ing to do that is all for the bet­ter, as well,” Fletcher says.

As of Mon­day, 724 vis­i­bly oiled birds had been res­cued off the coasts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Texas, ac­cord­ing to the Con­sol­i­dated Fish and Wildlife Col­lec­tion Re­port, which tracks num­bers re­ported by govern­ment agen­cies and res­cue cen­ters to the Uni­fied Area Com­mand in the spill zone. An­other 247 oiled birds from the five states have been found dead.

“ When you see some­thing that is dec­i­mat­ing what you do for a liv­ing — what you love — it just tore ev­ery­body up,” Cast­low says. “ We just thought, ‘ We’ve got the abil­ity to make a dif­fer­ence here.’ ” Martin writes for the

in Sioux Falls, S. D.

 ?? By Michael Spooney­barger, AP ??
By Michael Spooney­barger, AP

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