On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf Coast of BP exploded releasing an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water. BP’s solution to this problem? To use toxic Corexit dispersants, an estimated 1.9 million gallons worth, to sink the oil to the ocean floor. This oil spill, the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States, will have repercussions for many decades to come. As evidenced by the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, which has yet to see the recovery of a herring fishery destroyed due to the spill. The consequences of the gulf spill though are perhaps far more disastrous.
Approximately forty percent of all of the seafood in the United States comes from the Gulf Region that has been compromised by the spill. To make matters worse scientists speculate that the toxic chemicals that BP used to sink the oil may be the cause of some rather disturbing recent developments. In a recent article, “Gulf Seafood Deformities Alarm Scientists” by Dahr Jamail, fisherman in the gulf region reported finding, “mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp” among other problems such as large tar balls in their nets. While the FDA maintains that the seafood from the Gulf is safe, there is some concern about the long term effects of consumption.
The dispersants used to sink the oil are known to be mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic – able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus. Some scientists believe that the chemicals are to blame for what is happening to the marine life in the Gulf. In the article Dr. Cowan of the Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences Cowan states that he believes chemicals named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released from BP’s submerged oil, are likely to blame for what he is finding. Prior to the spill according to Dr. Cowan there was a tenth of one per cent of fish with lesions, sores or infections; now, in studying twenty species of fish, he has found that as many as fifty percent of fish in some samples are affected by such afflictions.
With data such as what Dr. Cowan has discovered, and fisherman reporting reduced, compromised numbers in production it is unclear what will happen in the Gulf. It seems apparent though that much more research will need to be done before any final conclusions can be drawn. However with scientists and fishermen alike baffled by their findings, it seems that recovery for the Gulf is quite a ways off.