The epicenter of the growing BP oil disaster is “exactly” where scientists have found bluefin tuna spawning. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig run by oil giant BP in the deep waters 40 miles off the southeast tip of Louisiana exploded, killing 11 and unleashing a torrent of oil from the sea bed. Ichthyologist Bruce Comyns, a research scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, MS, told the Wonk Room he has found bluefin tuna larvae “right in the vicinity of that ongoing discharge”:
COMYNS: We’ve also collected bluefin tuna larvae not just in the edge of the Loop Current, we’ve also collected them in the northern Gulf, in the vicinity of the mouth of the Mississippi River, maybe 40, 50 miles off.
Q: That sounds like where the spill took place.
COMYNS: That’s exactly where the spill took place. We have collected bluefin tuna larvae right in the vicinity of that ongoing discharge.
This is “the worst time” of year that this disaster could have begun, Dr. Comyns said, as this is the peak of the spawning and nesting season for marine wildlife in the Gulf, from fish to turtles to dolphins. As he has done in previous years, Dr. Comyns was planning to head out into the Gulf of Mexico to sample larval fishes from the edges of the Loop Current — a research trip that now has newly critical and disturbing import.
Professor Hans Graber of the University of Miami told the Associated Press that it’s “a matter of when, not if” the oil cloud reaches the Loop Current, the primary spawning ground in the Gulf for large pelagic fishes. BP is injecting dispersants directly into the underwater oil stream, limiting the slick at the surface, but increasing the contamination underwater. Protect the Ocean’s John Taylor reports that BP is using a dispersant named Corexit 9500, which has a “toxicity to early life stages of fish, crustaceans and mollusks” four times greater than petroleum.