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3 Years Of Gulf Oil Spill Photos Show Ongoing Impact

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July 15, 2013 marks the third anniversary of BP stopping an uncontrolled flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly three months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and killed 11 men, BP capped the undersea well that had leaked millions of barrels of crude and fouled thousands of miles of shoreline.

chandeleur sound la
Shrimp boats are used to collect oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La., Wednesday, May 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

In June 2013, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard announced an end to "active cleanup operations" in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Yet cleanup work continues for dozens of miles of Louisiana coastline.

Later that month, officials reported they had dug up a 165 foot by 65 foot slab of oil and wet sand near a Louisiana beach. The 40,000 pound tar mat -- recovered in chunks about 90 miles south of New Orleans at the edge of Barataria Bay -- is only a fraction of the nearly 3 million pounds of waste BP has recovered in Louisiana in 2013, reports CNN.

barataria bay at cat island
In this May 22, 2010 file photo, nesting pelicans are seen landing as oil washes ashore on Cat Island in Barataria Bay, in Plaquemines Parish, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file)

Barataria Bay and its surrounding waterways have suffered considerably from the spill. One year after the disaster, Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert wrote, "There is no question that Cat Island in Barataria Bay has eroded considerably. Much of the mangrove and marsh grass is gone."

barataria bay 2011
In this two picture combo, nesting terns and pelicans are seen on Cat Island on May 22, 2010, left, as oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts the shore of an island in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Louisiana. The second photo taken on April 8, 2011 near the same location, shows the shoreline heavily eroded, and the lush marsh grass and mangrove trees mostly dead or dying. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In 2012, Plaquemines Parish announced it was building a 40-acre circular barrier island to protect Cat Island. Estuary officials said all of the islets in the Barataria Bay area will be gone in the next few years without restoration, reported the Times-Picayune.

barataria bay cat island 2012
Pelicans are seen amongst dead mangrove on Cat Island in Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish, La., Wednesday, April 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Herbert returned to Cat Island in 2012, writing, "The island had eroded and was much smaller. What was once mangrove so thick only a bird could enter was now black stumps sticking out of the sand." He added, "There were fewer pelicans, and they were nesting on bare earth, exposed to the next storm surge."

gulf oil spill 2013
Dead mangrove, formerly dense, green and a nesting sight for brown pelicans, egrets and roaseate spoon bill, which was directly impacted by oil from the nation's worst offshore oil spill, is seen as it erodes into Barataria Bay at Cat Island and Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish, La., Thursday, April 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Businesses and individuals affected by the spill have faced a protracted legal battle with the British oil giant. A class action settlement was approved by a U.S. District Court in 2012, but BP's lawyers have begun to challenge claims they've called "fictitious," as the expected settlement costs balloon.

BP's challenges to the settlement have met a cold response from coastal residents and the lawyers who represent them.

"BP is more concerned about keeping its bottom line than it is about keeping its word," Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood wrote in a recent Times-Picayune op-ed. He said BP is just having "buyer's remorse," and stressed he "[has] faith that fairness will win out in the end."

gulf oil spill 2013
A tar ball is seen on a shoreline in Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish, La., Thursday, April 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Seafood industry in Louisiana also continues to suffer. Oyster, shrimp and crab harvests were down 10 percent in the Barataria Basin and 16 percent in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin around New Orleans in 2011 and 2012, compared to their 2002 to 2009 averages.

Statewide, oyster harvests dropped by 15 percent over the same time period. According to the Times-Picayune, the Gulf spill was only one of several factors that contributed to the decline in oyster production.

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