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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world. SavvyExacta is a lifelong animal enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience with horses. Freckles (an English setter) is a frequent topic on the blog. Other CR4 bloggers occasionally add great posts.

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Health of the Gulf: 2010 Oil Spill Follow-up

Posted January 09, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE Environment

In May 2010 I wrote about care of the animals impacted by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the past few days I've been reading up on what's happened to the area's wildlife in the 2.5 years since the spill.

Fish and Sea Life

Intellectualyst.com shared reports from scientists and fishermen. All reported deformed animals like crabs with no claws and shrimp with no eyes. Some have tumors or growths and many smell as if "they are dying from within." Specific species mentioned include white shrimp, brown shrimp, blue crabs, and red snapper.

Whales

theguardian explained that photos of a dead whale were not released immediately after the spill. The whale was found floating in the Gulf; decay prevented confirmation that the oil spill was the cause of death. The sperm whale population in the Gulf of Mexico numbered about 1,200 at the time of the spill.

Studies have found that Gulf whales differ from their global cousins with a smaller size and their own distinct calls. They tend to live in the Gulf year-round. Numerous animals were spotted wearing an oily sheen, but the chemical dispersants used to break up the spill could be more problematic because the species are not filter feeders that have anatomy to strain food. According to the National Wildlife Foundation, 3 sperm whale deaths per year caused by humans could jeopardize the species' recovery from endangered status.

Birds and Turtles

DailyDeadBirds.com tallied the number of birds and animals cleaned and released, seen oiled, and dead for the first year after the spill. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service appears to have stopped providing data after 2010.

NOLA.com reported that there are now more rigs drilling in the Gulf than there were before the Deepwater Horizon spill. Oil from the 2010 spill continues to come ashore, especially with powerful waves like those brought by Hurricane Issac.

A Benefit?

The blog Wonk on the Wildlife noted that fungus is thriving in the Gulf, while the diversity of microscopic animals has been reduced. According to the blog, fungus is the world's greatest decomposer, and it's hoped that they will help break down hydrocarbons on the ocean floor.

Humans are also looking for new ways to clean up the mess. Nanotechnology and magnets are being considered for future spill cleanup efforts (CNN). Although these techniques would reduce the need for chemical dispersants, they come with their own concerns. The techniques could be tough to use in a large sea environment and it's unknown whether the techniques would hurt wildlife.

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Guru
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#1

Re: Health of the Gulf: 2010 Oil Spill Follow-up

01/09/2013 7:22 AM

They should have collected as much of the oil as possible, and left the rest of it alone.

I believe that the bulk of the damage to marine life, was done by the use of chemical dispersant.

Oil is a natural product that the earth has been producing for eons. The chemicals used, are not. Who knows how many thousands of gallons of dispersant was used?

It should have been zero.

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#2

Re: Health of the Gulf: 2010 Oil Spill Follow-up

01/09/2013 11:15 PM

Being in the Santa Barbara area of California, the amount of natural seepage has yet to be determined. I believe the latest tallies show the natural seepage far exceeds any human error seepage . This is not to say that human error is excused, but that it is hard to sue the Planet...Yet Humans are very exposed to that danger...

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Guru

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#3

Re: Health of the Gulf: 2010 Oil Spill Follow-up

01/10/2013 3:38 PM

Like kramarat said, the oil should have been harvested as much as possible. Our inept, incompetant, imbecilic government leadership sat with their heads in a place where the sun doesn't shine and allowed the problem to become bigger than it was when it began.

There were other countries offering to bring in containment booms and skimming machines and our ignoramous government beauracrats turned them down. They didn't and they still aren't humble enough to listen to the advice of people more knowledgeable than them.

It sure makes a lot of sense to let the leaking material spread all of the area without doing anything. The beauracrats, who knew and still know nothing, sat around thinking; that the situation would improve on it's own, little fairies or something would magically appear and clean everything up, etc.

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Guru
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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Health of the Gulf: 2010 Oil Spill Follow-up

01/10/2013 4:06 PM

Yep. Skimmers were offered from all over the planet.

Unfortunately, the image of an oil soaked bird on television, makes for bad press.

As with most decisions, the decision to dump dispersants was a purely political one. It made the oil sink and disappear from view, but there is no telling what the lasting effects of that amount of poison will be.

As far as I know, there are no microbes that feed on chemical dispersant.............unlike oil.

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