Archive for 11/12/2011

Kate Spinner –

Evidence is mounting that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused wide-ranging ecological damage in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Since the blown oil well spewed 186 million to 227 million gallons of crude into the Gulf last year, several species of fish have developed skin ulcers in what appears to be greater-than-normal numbers.

Hundreds of dolphins — nearly 500 so far — have washed ashore dead, and fewer large migratory animals, such as whales sharks, have returned to their normal feeding grounds.

Meanwhile, layers of dead organic matter mixed with traces of oil remain on the ocean floor. Weathered crude also persists in marshes — some of it still thick, some hardly detectable, but harmful to fish.

More than a year after the well was capped, thousands of scientists are still working to understand the spill’s impacts and most hesitate to draw conclusions.

But more than 100 of them met at a conference in St. Pete Beach recently to collaborate and share the progress of research that will take years to complete.

Their work, along with federal research on the dolphin deaths, offers just a snapshot of the environmental problems unfolding.

Unprecendented in scope, the oil and the chemical dispersants used to break it down covered a vast ecosystem.

Everything was affected: tiny plankton, unreachable corals and bizarre deepwater fish, as well as commercially important reef fish, giant sharks, and common marine mammals.

Full story…