How bad is it?
The effect that the oil spill and its reckless cleanup has on sea
life is frightening, damning and sad. Here's a list of deformities that
Al Jazeera found in its report:
- Shrimp with tumors on their heads
- Shrimp with defects on their gills and "shells missing around their gills and head"
- Shrimp without eyes
- Shrimp with babies still attached to them
- Eyeless fish
- Fish without eye-sockets
- Fish without covers on their gills
- Fish with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills
- Crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one claw
- Crabs with holes in their shells
- Crabs with shells that have no spikes or claws or misshapen claws
- Crabs that are dying from within
The fishermen, scientists, and seafood processors who talked to Al
Jazeera are all in unison: They've never seen this before. Some have
worked in and around the Gulf for over 20 years, and most have seen
thousands and thousands of fish. This is the first time they're seeing
the mass mutation and destruction of seafood.
And it's not just the obvious deformities. Tests of the oysters that
wind up on our plates have shown elevated levels of nickel and vanadium according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And the jury's still out on arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels.
When did this start?
Scientists and fishermen are pointing to the 2010 BP oil disaster—and
the dispersants and chemicals used in its cleanup—for creating these
deformities. Specifically, the solvents used to clean up the spill are
powerful enough to dissolve oil, grease and rubber. That's great for
cleaning up an oil disaster, but terrible for the environment and worse
for humans, not to mention the toll taken on anything that lives in the
Gulf. And the thing is, these dispersants have always been known to be
mutagenic. The chemicals very probably altered the genome of sea life.
Prior to the spill, only one tenth of one percent of Gulf fish had
lesions or sores on them. After the spill, according to the University
of South Florida, many locations showed 20 percent of fish having
lesions with as much as 50 percent in other areas.
What exactly is the cause?[/*]Dr. Jim Cowan of Louisiana State University believes that chemicals
called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which the EPA terms as
"a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude
oil that has spent time in the ocean," are causing the majority of
problems. Fish and other sea creatures are being exposed to PAHs, which
affect both the immediate health of the fish itself and the victim's
On top of that, the dispersants used to clean up the oil spill are
known to be toxic to humans. Symptoms of exposure include "headaches,
vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system
damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, central nervous system
depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular
damage." Even more damningly, it can disturb the growth and development
of a fetus.
Essentially: BP is cleaning up a spill with acid, and acting surprised when the floor disappears.
The government has lost control
The FDA, EPA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration) all refused to comment on the awfulness that's happening
in the Gulf. BP, the company who created this mess in the first place,
refuse to take the blame, saying the seafood in the Gulf is "as safe now
as it was before the accident." The evidence, of course, indicates
What happens next?
The Gulf of Mexico provides nearly half of the seafood caught in the
US (40%). With its inhabitants dying or suffering mutations before
they're caught, it looks like seafood shortages are inevitable.
According to various fishermen, brown shrimp catch has dropped by
two-thirds, white shrimp have been wiped out and some fishermen's
seafood catch are ten percent of what they normally are. Seafood, as
America knows it, has changed. And without the proper funding or
commitment or BP accepting the blame, these effects might last longer
than anyone thinks.
Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from the Gulf, says it best:
[/*]"We're continuing to pull up oil in our nets. Think about losing
everything that makes you happy, because that is exactly what happens
when someone spills oil and sprays dispersants on it. People who live
here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters."[/*]
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