What Happens When The BP Oil Disaster Hits Florida's Shores?

Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi shores have already been hit with oil from the BP disaster. Now Florida is preparing for the arrival of the slick stuff on its beaches this week. What happens when oil starts showing up?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tells us that oil showing up on Florida's shoreline will wash up in the form of tar balls, oil sheen, tar mats or mousse - a brown, rust or orange-coloured pudding-like mix of oil and water. So far, the Department of Health claims that there aren't any oil-related health risks, but that could quickly change as more oil washes ashore. The NOAA also recently extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico up to the state water line in Alabama and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle, but as of today, the closures haven't impacted Florida proper.

But Florida is already feeling the economic impact of the spill. In a statement this morning, Governor Charlie Crist expressed his concern:

The impacts go beyond what our commercial fishermen are experiencing. Mainly due to the misperceptions and misinformation about the extent and impact of the spill, Florida's charter fishing fleet, for-hire guides, and related fishery infrastructure are also suffering. The State of Florida will continue to do everything possible to promote fishing and seafood safety, but our fishermen and coastal fishing communities are already seeing serious economic damages.

The state plans to do everything it can to correct what it says is misinformation - even though the impact of the spill could quickly grow in the state. BP recently offered Florida $US25 million for tourism promotion, and earlier today, Governor Crist announced plans to put $US7 million of the cash into three weeks of advertising in Northwest Florida. The question is: Will ads touting Florida's clean beaches and untainted seafood be false by the time they air? With oil is set to hit the state as early as tomorrow, should the government be considering allocating the funds for a deeper emergency response? When pressed by FastCompany.com for information about how the rest of the money would be spent, a spokesperson declined to elaborate.

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