It was two years ago tomorrow that the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, leading to the largest oil spill in our nation’s history. And one of the strategies that BP and the federal government used to mask the enormity of the disaster was dispersants, the chemical liquid poured into the Gulf of Mexico in massive quantities. At least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit were deposited into the sea. We were told by the relevant authorities that all this was perfectly safe. And once the traditional media mostly looked away, there was no way for us to know. Except that pesky Al Jazeera did some actual reporting.
“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”
Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.
Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants.
Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.
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.
I’m not sure what else you could point to. This was the main disruptive force to the ecosystem in the recent past.
George Washington did find lots of other reports of the effect on marine life from the oil spill, but this Al Jazeera report really ties everything together, not only about mutations, but about the breakdown of the Gulf ecosystem generally. There’s no way that every one of these mutated fish was caught before it ended up on a dinner plate. I don’t know what that means for humans who consume them; the process of cooking may have removed some of the toxics. But I am no longer hankering for Gulf sushi. And the Gulf of Mexico provides 40% of all seafood consumed in the US, so it’s not really “Gulf” sushi at all.
Scientists know enough about dispersants to say fairly confidently that they’re causing the mutations in the Gulf. I’m sure the American Petroleum Institute can find some who think otherwise. And the office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, contacted for the story, claimed that “Gulf seafood has consistently tested lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the levels of oil and dispersant contamination that would pose a risk to human health.” And then there’s this bit of fancy footwork:
At the federal government level, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency – both federal agencies which have powers in the this area – insisted Al Jazeera talk with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
NOAA won’t comment to the media because its involvement in collecting information for an ongoing lawsuit against BP.
So much remains unknown about the oil disaster, that it’s hard to take any statement denying serious damage to the Gulf on faith.