When the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out in 2010 and then was finally capped months later, there was room for optimism that the aftermath would not be as bad as feared. Fish were abundant because fishing had been closed, and most seemed to survive the oil itself. Marsh grasses were growing back.
But while I hoped that trend would hold, I knew the real test would be about whether the next couple of breeding seasons would work. Larval fish and shrimp, and their tiny eggs of course, are more vulnerable. They have to develop properly, a process involving incredibly fine-tuned chemical reactions and perfect timing.
How would they fare in a toxic soup? Would the oil and dispersant be degraded and diluted enough to let the next generations flourish?
The first sign of trouble came a few months later, when hundreds of newborn dolphins washed up dead. Their mothers had carried them in their first trimester through the worst of the oil and dispersant.
And now, fish are infected, crabs are clawless, and shrimp have no eyes.
Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail has written an excellent but appalling piece on the horrific condition of fish and shellfish right now in the Gulf http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/04/201241682318260912.html. There’s an excellent interview with him on Amy Goodman’s superb show Democracy Now http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/23/gulf_oil_spill_bp_execs_escape.
Here’s just a little bit of it:
AMY GOODMAN: “Dahr Jamail, you’ve been following this BP oil spill since the beginning. Talk about what you have found.”
DAHR JAMAIL: “We have recently come across very, very disturbing information from Gulf region scientists. You know, the first person I came across was Dr. Jim Cowan with Louisiana State University, and he’s been working on a project, getting his funding from the state of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. And he’s been, actually, for many decades, sampling red snapper, which is a very popular fish in the industry. And he’s been finding that before the BP disaster in April 2010, that of all the red snapper he was sampling, he was finding point-one-tenth [0.1] of 1 percent snapper coming up with lesions and other types of problems. Post-spill, that has gone to between 2 and 5 percent of all samples. That means an increase of between 2,000 and 5,000 percent, and in some areas as much as 20 percent, he said, in other areas who have extreme impact, where the oil and dispersants came in nearby the shore, of as many as 50 percent of fish sampled. Very, very disturbing information there.
“And then, another doctor that I spoke with, Dr. Darryl Felder with University of Louisiana-Lafayette, he also has before-and-after samples. He was working out around the Macondo wellhead area on the sea floor with a grant from the National Science Foundation, that they wanted him to investigate just overall drilling impact on species in the area. And so, he had deep sea crab, deep sea lobster, deep sea shrimp, from before the spill, and then many, many sampling trips after the spill. And what he found was obviously a very, very large increase of finding crab and lobster, etc., that had black gills, that had appendages falling off, again similar stains on their shells, and again similar to findings not too different from Dr. Jim Cowan’s, in that when the oil, that much unnatural oil introduced into the environment, coupled with the dispersants, that it’s causing these lesions that are burrowing into the carapace and the shells and eating into the wax of the shells, causing an increase in the microbes that do eat oil. Not only are they not eating just oil, but eating into the shells, and then parasites and diseases and other illnesses are being formed.
“And then, lastly and I think most disturbingly, as you already touched upon, the eyeless shrimp. We’re seeing very, very large incidence of eyeless shrimp now popping up not just in Louisiana, but in Alabama and Mississippi, not just inshore, but further far ashore—offshore. And some of the shrimp that we’re seeing, they came from a shrimper in Louisiana that was caught—caught 400 pounds of white shrimp in one catch in last September, just off the outskirts of Barataria Bay. And that was—of the 400 pounds of shrimp, the shrimpers told us that all of them were eyeless. So, very, very disturbing findings. And unfortunately, we’re expecting more to continue.”