By Jennifer Odell
New reports indicate that at least 6 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - more than half of what the Exxon Valdez spilled into Prince William Sound in 1989 -- and the environmental and economic devastation along Louisiana's coastline continues to worsen.
"Vampire Diaries" star Ian Somerhalder grew up playing in those bayous and marshes, and returned home a few weeks ago to help however he could.
"Having fished all the coastline in Louisiana and Mississippi, I know how delicate that ecosystem is," he told New Orleans' Times-Picayune in early May. "The thought of that oil sinking into the root systems of those plants, killing the oysters, crabs and shrimp, sends chills down your spine."
Once he got back home, the Mandeville, La. native asked a friend at a local TV station how he could help. The result was a series of PSAs, shot over the past few weeks, with WNOL-38 for the Audobon Institute and St. Tammany Humane Society, according to the Times-Picayune.
"I'm just scared right now. No one really knows what's happening. From what we see on the surface, NOAA and the oceanographers can estimate what's coming out of the rig. But BP has denied scientists access to the footage of the gushing leak below the surface, so there's no way for us to know the actual realistic scale of the damage that's still happening," Somerhalder tells the Los Angeles Times. "NOAA is a government administration! Why isn't Obama stepping in and demanding that footage, demanding a live view of what's going on?"
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He went on to use the now hackneyed "Obama's Katrina" phrase to express his dissatisfaction with the President's seeming failure to hold the oil giant accountable for the situation. "It's a massive disaster, on a scale we haven't even begun to fathom, and it could have been stopped by a valve that cost half a million dollars," Somerhalder points out.
In addition to the unknowable destructing of wildlife, the spill is wreaking havoc on coastal fishing communities faced with a complete economic standstill during what should be a high season.
"Just watching all these very proud, hardworking fishermen, who have never asked for anything in their lives, who support themselves and their families for generations with this one industry," Somerhalder tells the Los Angeles Times. "Now it's likely to disappear. If it'll ever recover, we're talking decades and decades. It's beyond tragic."
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Somerhalder's fund and awareness-raising PSA spots will soon be distributed around the country, Audobon Institute president Ronald Forman announced in a recent statement on the organization's Web site.
For more information about what you can do to help, please visit the Audobon Institute's Gulf oil spill resources page.