BARATARIA BAY, La. -- The BP oil spill is neither gone, nor forgotten along coastal Louisiana.
Four years ago, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Plaquemines Parish, dumped more than 200 million gallons of thick crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Fishermen at the Myrtle Grove Marina south of New Orleans say despite a massive clean-up effort, Barataria Bay is still hurting.
"There are some areas that we may stay away from just because we know about tar balls popping up and this and that and we really don't even visit those areas any longer," said charter boat captain Chad Breland. "Sometimes you have to find new locations to fish. You may have to burn a lot more fuel. You may have to fish different places."
We took a boat ride into the marsh with the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups now studying the effects of the BP spill.
We stopped in Bay Jimmy where clumps of oil flattened miles of marsh grass and cane weeds in the aftermath of the disaster. Recent cuts along the shoreline of several grassy islands are a sign the bay continues to lose vegetation.
"Once the vegetation is lost, you'll see that the soil no longer has that root system to hold it in place and it will start to erode from the wave action, " said Natalie Perronnin from the Environmental Defense Fund. "Ultimately, it's going to be harder to restore if we allow damage to continue."
Cat Island in the middle of Barataria Bay would have been filled with nesting pelicans and other migratory birds before the BP spill, but Dave Muth from the National Wildlife Federation says oil washed ashore killing the mangroves and ultimately killing the island as a bird habitat.
"Mangroves have these little breathing structures on the roots and they were coated in oil and so the plants themselves died," said Muth. "Now, there's no where for the pelicans to nest here."
Muth says a recent report by the NWF indicates 14 species of creatures are in distress as a result of the BP spill.
"We have reports now on blue fin tuna, we have reports on dolphin, some reports on sea turtles on cocahoe minnows," said Muth. "You dump 200 million gallons of oil into an ecosystem and there are long term effects."
Back at Myrtle Grove, fishermen want research done throughout the Barataria Basin.
"I think the most important thing we can do right now is to continue studying and monitoring our marsh, monitoring the oysters, monitoring the crabs, monitoring the marsh itself, the root system," said Breland. "I think we're going to have effects for many years to come."
BP Spokesman Jason Ryan released this statement about the NWF report:
“The National Wildlife Federation is an advocacy organization; it is not a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustee and is not party to the NRDA studies undertaken to determine potential injury to natural resources that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon accident. The National Wildlife Federation report is a piece of political advocacy - not science. It cherry picks reports to support the organization’s agenda, often ignoring caveats in those reports or mischaracterizing their findings...The report also conveniently overlooks information available from other independent scientific reports showing that the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery. Just this week, a study published by Auburn University researchers found no evidence that the spill impacted young Red Snapper populations on reefs off the Alabama coast.”