Those sausage-looking things are actually hairbooms: pantyhose stuffed with human hair that can be tossed into the water to contain an oil spill. Sounds absurd, but it's one of the few known ways to contain them, and the technique was used for the Exxon Valdez mess in 1989, and in the Cosco Busan spill of 2007. Containing a spill is, after all, a first step in cleaning it up.
Of course, in order to contain the amount of oil currently messing up the Gulf, a lot of hair (and hose) is needed. Matter of Trust is on the case, collecting human, dog, and cat hair from salons and individual donors to weave it all together to make oil-absording mats and booms. If this hair thing works this go-round, it could be a pretty cool low-tech solution to a very big problem.
(If you're not due for a trim, the Daily Beast has a good list of other ways you can help out.)