Scientists alarmed by diseased fish in the Gulf

One year after the BP oil catastrophe, marine life in the Gulf of Mexico is exhibiting some disturbing trends.  CAP’s Kiley Kroh has the story.

Over 150 dead dolphins, including several with oil from the BP spill on their bodies, have washed up along the Gulf Coast this year. Now, scientists are expressing grave concern over the shocking number of fish they’ve discovered in inland waterways and the Gulf of Mexico with skin lesions, fin rot, spots, liver blood clots and other health problems. Richard Snyder, director of the University of West Florida Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, calls the discovery of so many diseased fish “a huge red flag“:

In the years following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the herring fishery collapsed and has not recovered, according to an Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee report. The herring showed similar signs of illness “” including skin lesions “” that are showing up in Gulf fish

Many of the symptoms scientists see in Gulf fish are consistent with oil exposure. If these recent trends prove to be a result of the BP disaster, then this could very well be a sign of worse things to come. Scientists currently working in the gulf stress that “findings so far demonstrate that studies need to continue far into the future,” again emphasizing the critical need for significant investment in scientific study and the long-term restoration of the Gulf.

The lesson of Prince William Sound’s herring fishery shows that the most devastating effects of the spill could take several years to present themselves. Therefore, Congress, which has failed to pass any sort of post-spill legislation, must use its authority to ensure BP and other responsible parties continue to be held accountable and that funds are directed into research and restoration projects.

Kiley Kroh, CAP’s Associate Director for Ocean Communications, in a WonkRoom cross-post.

11 Responses to Scientists alarmed by diseased fish in the Gulf

  1. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    I spent my summers, 45 years ago, in Grand Isle Louisiana fishing, crabbing and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. The offshore oil rigs, sound of the crew boats, flares and sandy tar balls on the beaches seemed a natural part of the environment in those days. The best fishing was always found at the oil rigs which support a rich community of ocean life around the legs of the platforms. It is still common to motor out 60 miles in a fast boat, tie a bow line to the leg of a rig and fish the structure for red snapper.

    I was able to make a brief visit to Grand Isle two months before the BP rig went down in flames. We stopped at the public jetty, actually the remains of the old wooden bridge, as we left the island. Several families were lazily fishing, a young girl excitedly pointed to the floping, flounder that her father had just landed. The bay was filled with brown pelicans and dolphins, hundreds if not more. We discoverd that if we scanned the water with unfocused eyes that we could catch glimpses of Dolphin leaping clear of the water. They would be airborn for just a flash, too brief to focus the eye. I read about the Dolphin mortality and wonder if the Dolphin are still feeding in that bay.

    If we have all the oil we want to burn and there are no Dolphin in that bay…do we win?

  2. Joan Savage says:

    “The lesson of Prince William Sound’s herring fishery shows that the most devastating effects of the spill could take several years to present themselves.”

    Long-term, even multi-generational, consequences are common in nature. The regulatory process has yet to fully incorporate this fact of life in legal cases requiring restitution for damages.

    Crude hydrocarbons introduce an array of chemical pathway consequences which can interact with situational chemicals. Novel dispersant chemicals come with chemical fates that are not fully understood. Introduced chemicals in an environment can have breakdown products that behave very differently from the progenitor chemical. A classic example is the breakdown of DDT to DDE and DDD over decades.

    This all seems so obvious, and yet the legal process is not well adapted to developing responsible management tools with the same time-line as the consequences of the event. In a legal case in which a permanently disabled individual is granted an award, the award is expected to cover the life-time costs of the disability.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Joan and Christopher.

    There are plenty of examples of slow moving ecosystem crashes that accelerated years after the disturbance. The American cod fishery, Northwest old growth ecosystems, salmon rivers, and even Great Plains grasslands come to mind. If there’s ever an adequate study in the Gulf, it will be either too late or ignored.

    It is clear from everything that happened after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that sacrificing a spectacular ocean ecosystem is worth it if there’s enough oil there. Obama now wants to drill more, including offshore, and regulations remain tepid. As for the Republicans, they’d drill in Yosemite Valley if there was oil there, and declare a national emergency in order to get it done. They clearcut in Yosemite during World War II using that pretense.

  4. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    Sports fishing is huge in South Louisiana. I scanned a number of sports columns, blogs and commercial sites. If the catch is showing signs of stress none of these sources are talking about it. The proverbial “grain of salt” is invoked.

    Here are photos of recent sport fishing catches. The days sports fishing catch looks healthy to me.

    And I am only referring to oil spill damage to sports fish. The days catch may be healthy but the health of the larger environment is a mess. I could go on and on about that.

  5. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    MR #3 “Obama Wants to Drill” The Office of the President is subject to the direction of the large corporations.

    The “Weeks Act” created the first national forest and had zero, nothing, to do with preserving wilderness or environment. The bill was passed to protect the damns required to power the factories. To protect the watershed that were filling with silt after the forests were clearcut for the second time.

    Dick Cheney is quoted as saying something to the effect that the 60’s were a mistake. I thought he meant the 60’s as in “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”! How naive i am.

    Dick Cheney meant that the Great Society, the social and environmental legislation and the taxes and big government were all a mistake. All readers who support the republican party should know and and remember that when they finish gutting the unions, medicare, medicaide, social securit, public school budget, public university budgets, environmental safeguards that they will be abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

    They/we will have delivered all power and authority back into the hands of the few. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people will be controlled by the few, by the powerful for their personal gain.

    We will elect the president that they appoint and he/she will do their bidding. I am afraid it is already so.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Christopher Yaun,

    I agree with what you’ve said today with one exception: the National Forests were enabled by Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, and Gifford Pinchot. Most NF land is in western states, with few factories depending on upstream watersheds and dams both then and now. It was probably different in the NF’s of the southeast that you described, but these are small. Ecosystem preservation- though they didn’t call it that in those days- was a major goal.

    This vision was betrayed after World War II, when junk science (thanks fir that word, deniers!)- determined that we could clearcut and replant, and everything would be OK. “Multiple use”.
    The real motivator was the construction industry, which was running out of two by fours. Back in the 50’s, construction and timber were as powerful as oil and coal today. There were fortunes to be made in the endless wooden tracts that emerged in the 50’s and 60’s. Many of these tracts are now dilapidated, as a direct result of building them with a material that is vulnerable to rot, insects, and dimensional instability.

    The outcome was that the National Forests of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana are now moth eaten remnants, with isolated pockets of intact forests that are not up to the task of restoring ecosystems.

  7. windsong says:

    A handful of people are destroying our planet. How odd that we allow it to happen. But then, if we attempt to stop it, we’re considered terrorists and thrown in jail. They have us over a barrel.

  8. Tony O'Brien says:

    Who are the Red Coats of today?

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Think Chief Seattle – “you can’t eat money”, ME

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The process of destroying the ecological ‘web of life’ by cutting one thread after another in pursuit of money is reaching its end-point. The interconnectedness of all things is a concept beyond the intellectual and spiritual understanding of the destroyers. They operate on a very basic, Pavlovian, level of conditioned responses to existence. I live, therefore I will consume, accumulate and exploit, and, in the process, if I destroy-so what? When the proverbial hits the fan, I’ll be dead, and it will be some other patsy’s problem. The predictable debacle of the Western, capitalist, pseudo-religion of ‘individualism’.
    The process of ecological collapse is a cascade, often of utterly unforeseen consequences, that, once past various tipping-points, cannot be called back. Of course we are in it right now, and it is accelerating. And the response of the pathocrats is typical and unsurprising. They are increasing the rate of exploitation, and spending a little loose change setting up an apparatus of lies and disinformation to confuse the rabble. This is the long anticipated apotheosis of market capitalism-filling our nest with shite, but denying it, and insisting that it is in reality the most delicious chocolate, then forcing us to eat as much as our stomachs can hold. Let’s call it ‘market re-cycling’.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    Merrelyn Emery (#9)

    “Think Chief Seattle – “you can’t eat money”, ME”

    How true! and that is exactly why the full costs of the oil spill, over the life of an ecosystem, measured in millennia, should have prompted BP, Halliburton, Transocean, to have refrained from their risky business in the first place. If they really had to be financially prepared to reconcile with every victim, forever, they could not have afforded the venture.

    Indigenous people often have a much better sense of the infinite consequences, the long-term accounting system, and particularly what is not substitutable, water and food.

    As a “bridge” communication, I recommend ecological economist Robert Costanza, Cutler Cleveland, Charles S. Hall et al. as writers on quantifying the full ecological costs of an activity. Bob Costanza et al recently posted on Grist about the insurance policy needed to cover the million years of waste for a nuclear power plant. It has what I sense was a tongue in cheek title.