Fishery closure update (effective May 29):
- NOAA Fisheries Service revised the fishery closure effective 6:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 28. The closure now encompasses approximately 25 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone.
Marine mammals and turtles (effective May 28):
- The total number of sea turtles verified from April 30 to May 28 within the designated spill area is 240. The 240 turtles verified include three entirely oiled sea turtles that were captured alive during dedicated on-water surveys: two small Kemp’s Ridley and a larger sub-adult Loggerhead turtle. They were taken to the Audubon Aquarium where they are undergoing care and are doing well. In addition, 224 dead and 13 live stranded turtles (of which three subsequently died in rehab) have been verified. A total of 12 live turtles are now in rehabilitation. One of the live stranded turtles –caught in marine debris — was disentangled and released. One of the turtles that stranded dead – a Kemp’s ridley – had visible evidence of external oil. All others that stranded dead and alive have not had visible external oil. Turtle strandings during this time period have been higher in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama than in previous years for this same time period. This may be due in part to increased detection and reporting, but this does not fully account for the increase.
- From April 30 to May 28, there have been 25 dead dolphins verified within the designated spill area. So far, one of the 25 dolphins had evidence of external oil. It was found on an oiled beach. We are unable at this time to determine whether the animal was externally covered in oil prior to its death or after its death. The other 24 dolphins have had no visible evidence of external oil. Since April 30, the stranding rate for dolphins in Louisiana has been higher than the historic numbers for the same time period in previous years. This may be due to increased detection and reporting and the lingering effects of the earlier observed spike in strandings.
*Strandings are defined as dead or debilitated animals that wash ashore
Already-endangered sea creatures in big trouble
Unlike all the oil-soaked birds that have caught people’s attention, experts say undersea creatures killed by the oil may simply sink out of sight.
By RENEE SCHOOF
WASHINGTON — As the magnitude of BP’s oil spill becomes clearer, scientists fear that the volume of oil, the depth of the leak and the chemical dispersants the company is using will combine to threaten a vast array of undersea life for years.
At risk are such endangered species as Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and the Atlantic bluefin tuna, as well as the Gulf of Mexico’s 8,300 other creatures from plankton to birds. The contamination, some say, is likely to undo years of work that brought some wildlife, such as the brown pelican, back from the brink of extinction.
“It’s probably going to be one of the worst disasters we’ve ever seen,” said Paul Montagna, a professor of ecology at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.
“Instead of creating a typical spill, where the oil goes to the surface and you can scoop it up, this stuff has been distributed throughout the water column, and that means everything, absolutely everything, is being affected,” he said.
Further complicating the toxic effects of the oil, the chemical dispersants — used as never before a mile below the surface — have changed the crude in ways that will keep it from breaking down.
The dispersants have modified the oil, keeping it in a form that’s “much gooier and much oilier, and that has a lot of us worried, because it means the stuff is not going to degrade very easily,” said James H. Cowan Jr., a professor of biological oceanography at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Because of the high pressure deep underwater, it’s harder for dispersants to break up the oil, he said.
“A lot of us suspect that we may be dealing with this for decades,” Cowan said.
BP’s use of the dispersants also is likely to keep the damage hidden.
Larry Crowder, a professor of marine biology at Duke University, said the dispersant, Corexit, had kept much of the oil off the beaches, making it “harder to get `Film at 11′ about the effects.” Many species that are killed by the oil in the water will die and sink out of sight.
“That may be the preference of the oil companies: to keep the damage out of sight, out of mind,” Crowder said.
LIKE A FRIDGE
Scientists said that at the seabed, where the gusher has spewed as much as 37 million gallons of crude since April, the world is like a refrigerator with the door shut: about 40 degrees and dark. Bacteria that degrade oil don’t work well in those conditions.
“A lot of the technology that worked pretty well in shallow water we’re finding — oops — there are some things we didn’t know or think about,” said Texas A&M’s Montagna. “Obviously, there were no contingency plans.”
BP’s response plan for a spill in the Gulf didn’t anticipate oil staying underwater. It said that measurements would be made on the surface to calculate the size of the spill.
Layers of oil reach out in all directions under water, LSU’s Cowan said, some deep, where they degrade slowly, and others moving toward the surface. One layer is a few hundred feet down in the water and 300 feet thick, he said.
The following news report has a 22 mile plume of oil and dispersant headed for the Florida coast and will spell disaster for marine life!
By MATTHEW BROWN and JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Writers – Fri May 28, 10:40 am ET
NEW ORLEANS – A thick, 22-mile plume of oil discovered by researchers off the BP spill site was nearing an underwater canyon, where it could poison the foodchain for sealife in the waters off Florida.
The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science’s Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume reported since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The plume is more than 6 miles wide and its presence was reported Thursday.
The cloud was nearing a large underwater canyon whose currents fuel the foodchain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals, another researcher said Friday.
Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said the DeSoto Canyon off the Florida Panhandle sends nutrient-rich water from the deep sea up to shallower waters.
McKinney said that in a best-case scenario, oil riding the current out of the canyon would rise close enough to the surface to be broken down by sunlight. But if the plume remains relatively intact, it could sweep down the west coast of Florida as a toxic soup as far as the Keys, through what he called some of the most productive parts of the Gulf.
The plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet, said David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at USF.
Hollander said the team detected the thickest amount of hydrocarbons, likely from the oil spewing from the blown out well, at about 1,300 feet in the same spot on two separate days this week.
The discovery was important, he said, because it confirmed that the substance found in the water was not naturally occurring and that the plume was at its highest concentration in deeper waters. The researchers will use further testing to determine whether the hydrocarbons they found are the result of dispersants or the emulsification of oil as it traveled away from the well.
The first such plume detected by scientists stretched from the well southwest toward the open sea, but this new undersea oil cloud is headed miles inland into shallower waters where many fish and other species reproduce.
The researchers say they are worried these undersea plumes may be the result of the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil a mile undersea at the site of the leak.
Hollander said the oil they detected has dissolved into the water, and is no longer visible, leading to fears from researchers that the toxicity from the oil and dispersants could pose a big danger to fish larvae and creatures that filter the waters for food.
“There are two elements to it,” Hollander said. “The plume reaching waters on the continental shelf could have a toxic effect on fish larvae, and we also may see a long term response as it cascades up the food web.”
Dispersants contain surfactants, which are similar to dishwashing soap.
A Louisiana State University researcher who has studied their effects on marine life said that by breaking oil into small particles, surfactants make it easier for fish and other animals to soak up the oil’s toxic chemicals. That can impair the animals’ immune systems and cause reproductive problems.
“The oil’s not at the surface, so it doesn’t look so bad, but you have a situation where it’s more available to fish,” said Kevin Kleinow, a professor in LSU’s school of veterinary medicine.
found here –
Over weekend, fisherman catch oil-covered shrimp off Dry Tortugas in Florida Keys — About 12 miles north of… landofthemarvelous — May 26, 2010 — — Over weekend, fisherman catch oil-covered shrimp off Dry Tortugas in Florida Keys —
About 12 miles north of Dry Tortugas, the crew on the Mattie Fay hauled up their shrimp catch and got oil.
Tar balls were tangled in their nets with the shrimp. There was tar on the shrimp, tar on their boots, tar on their gloves.
We just come on in after that, said Brian Williams, 30, a member of the Mattie Fay crew. We didnt drag no more. Once we saw that, we pretty much wrote it off.
Now, were leaving. I seen the sign of that tar out there the other day and I dont want to get trapped.
Said a local lobster trapper, “Im pretty much screwed for the rest of my days.
“Theres no way to know if the oil the Mattie Fay ran into came from the Deepwater Horizon blowout a few hundred miles away.”
Orginally reported by the Naples Daily News
(includes a video – )
• At 840,000 gallons, the amount of dispersant in the region of the 3,850 square-mile slick represents an average concentration of about 30 parts per billion to the 10 meters of depth the dispersant will go – even without factoring in that a substantial portion of the product has already biodegraded.
• By comparison, the EPA allows drinking water to contain non-biodegradable contaminants — including carcinogens and reproductive toxins — that exceed the level of biodegradable chemicals present in COREXIT in the Gulf.
• COREXIT is meant to be used at sea – away from the shoreline and has been used in more than 30 countries, including Sweden, France, Australia, Norway and Canada. Aerial spraying of dispersant is not to take place within 2 miles of a boat or 3 miles of a shoreline. With 30-mile per hour winds, the maximum expected drift for the dispersant is 2,000 feet. Spraying of dispersant from boats should only be done with personal protective equipment. Mists of the dispersant will not stray far from the boat given the proximity of the spray to the surface of the water.
MiamiHerald.com – 9 hours ago
Telegraph.co.uk – Philip Sherwell – 9 hours ago