Saha: Oil spill in Gulf still affecting locals
- Jun. 18, 2012
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British Petroleum’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is still affecting wildlife and seafood businesses.
On April 20, 2010, the BP Horizon Deepwater released 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of three months. It was the largest accidental marine spill in petroleum history. The explosion killed 11 workers and 17 were injured. Other immediate effects included birds and turtles covered in oil and dying sea coral. Two years later, the oil is no longer seen on the surface. However, scientists have found considerable amounts on the ocean floor. Consequently, fishermen are finding mutant seafood in the Gulf proving lasting effects BP’s oil spill has had on the regional ecosystem.
The mutagenesis of the seafood has affected multiple marine species. This includes fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, and eyeless shrimp. After the oil spill, many fisheries closed due to many marine organisms dying. In short: less business. The fisheries that remained open have to deal with the mutant seafood.
Fisher Tracy Kuhn stated, “at the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these.” She was referring to the eyeless shrimp. What was most disturbing was these shrimp simply do not lack eyes but eye sockets.
The deformed fish and crustaceans are not solely due to the oil, but the chemical that de-clumped or “broke” the oil up. After the oil spill, BP released almost 2 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants. The chemical 2-butoxyethanol in Corexit causes harm to red blood cells as well as kidney and lung damage in humans. It can also arrest the development of human embryos. Imagine the effects it can have on simpler and smaller creatures like seafood. It is possible the mutagen entered the genome of shrimp to the few generations that survived the immediate spill.
Gulf seafood has constantly been tested lower than the safety thresholds created by the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world. Recent FDA reports have claimed the seafood as safe as it was two years ago. However, many tourists and locals are reluctant to eat it. BP claims the fish with oozing sores happened before the spill due to parasites in the ocean. Regardless, the oil spill has had pronounced effects after the initial explosion.
This catastrophic event has negatively affected the economy of Gulf fisheries as well as crustacean diversity in the ocean. This is something that may never be restored.
Saha is a junior in neurobiology from Overland Park.