The words "We've never seen anything like it" are repeated by scientists, seafood processors and fishermen throughout the gulf region. A feature article from Al Jazeera English, Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists, examines the alarming abnormalities turning up in fish, shrimp, crab and other species since the BP oil spill.
BP's Deepwater Horizon spill and the subsequent, unprecedented dump of toxic chemical dispersants has damaged fisheries and affected the genomes of gulf seafood.
Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp - and interviewees' fingers point towards BP's oil pollution disaster as being the cause.
The Al Jazeera piece is a must read
. I can't do it justice here with just a few paragraphs but here are some quotes from various fishers and scientists interviewed for the article
. The eerily constant refrain of "we've never seen anything like this" runs through the piece.
Tracy Kuhn and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Louisiana:
"Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets."
"Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico]," she added, "They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don't have their usual spikes … they look like they've been burned off by chemicals."
Keath Ladner, a 3rd generation seafood processor in Mississippi:
"I've seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the white shrimp have been wiped out," Ladner told Al Jazeera. "The shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday."
Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisher from Louisiana in reference to crabs:
"with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they've been dead for a week".
Rooks is also finding eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills.
"We also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills."
Is there a tie to the BP spill and unprecedented use of dispersants?
"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. "It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known".
The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP's disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.
Dr Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of biology at Louisiana State University, co-authored the report Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2011.
Whitehead's work is of critical importance, as it shows a direct link between BP's oil and the negative impacts on the Gulf's food web evidenced by studies on killifish before, during and after the oil disaster.
"What we found is a very clear, genome-wide signal, a very clear signal of exposure to the toxic components of oil that coincided with the timing and the locations of the oil," Whitehead told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab.
"Impacts on those species are more than likely going to propagate out and effect other species. What this shows is a very direct link from exposure to DWH oil and a clear biological effect. And a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences."
Bobby Jindahl's office as well as BP gave statements about how extensively everything is being tested and state that it's "safe for human health." The FDA directed Al Jazeera to talk to NOAA but NOAA refused to comment citing pending litigation against BP. Let's hope they at least, are paying attention.
We are really witnessing only the beginning of the fallout from this disaster. While sea creatures with mutated genomes may not actively contain oil or toxic chemicals, how will these mutations impact their survival? Fishers interviewed in that article are reporting massive decreases in the catches. I don't see how BP can ever make this right. How do you compensate a country for wiping out one of their richest sources of food?
Magnifico did a diary yesterday Congress fails to learn lessons from 2010 Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill disaster in which he reviewed the finding of the Oil Spill Commission's 1st report card on the Deepwater Horizon Spill; "Assessing Progress: Implementing the Recommendations of the National Oil Spill Commission" (pdf).
From the report:
In just the past 10 months, at least 3 offshore oil and gas rigs around the world have experienced significant leaks, demonstrating again and again how risky this activity is and emphasizing the need for the types of controls and protections the Commission called for. The risks will only increase as drilling moves into deeper waters with harsher, less familiar environmental conditions. Delays in taking the necessary precautions threaten new disasters, and their occurrence could, in turn, seriously threaten the nation’s energy security. Everyone will benefit if the needed improvements are made properly and expeditiously.
Two years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Not only has Congress not enacted any legislation recommended by the Commission, the have actually authored legislation that would increase the likelihood of a repeat.
...the House has passed several bills (for example, HR 1229, 1230, and 1231) containing provisions, such as requirements that extensive offshore areas be leased without adequate review, that actually run contrary to what the Commission concluded was essential for safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil resources.
The impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill is going to be felt in the Gulf for a generation. We should be doing everything possible to ensure there is no repeat of this nightmare.
9:06 AM PT: Thanks for getting this on the rec list. In the midst of our national conversation on expanding drilling and the price of oil, I think this needs to be factored into the cost.