Youth and Education news
May 1, 2012
Gulf seafood deformities
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/04/201241682318260912.html Condensed by Native Village
New Orleans, LA:
The Gulf of Mexico provides over
of the seafood caught in the continental US.
But today's fishermen, scientists and seafood processors are finding disturbing numbers of mutated
shrimp, crab and fish.
"I've never seen this," is what every scientist, fisherman, and seafood processor
said when talking with this article's reporters about seafood
their fingers towards' BP's oil pollution disaster
as being the cause.
"The fishermen have never seen anything like this," Dr Jim Cowan. "And in my
20 years working on
red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish,
never seen anything like this either."
Dr Cowan is with Louisiana State University's Department of
Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. His findings replicate those of others living along vast areas
of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP's oil and
On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded,
and began the release of at least
4,900,000 barrels of oil. BP
then used at least
1,900,000 gallons of toxic Corexit
dispersants to sink the oil.
racy Kuhns and Mike Roberts
are commercial fishers from Barataria, LA.
"At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of
our friends caught [400 pounds of [eyeless shrimp]," Kuhns said.
She added at at least
50% of the shrimp caught in Barataria not only
lacked eyes, they even lacked eye sockets.
"Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of
Mexico]," she added, "They are also catching them in Alabama and
Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their
shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth
their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don't
have their usual spikes … they look like they've been burned off by
Sidney Schwartz, the
fourth-generation fisherman saw
defects on their gills, and "their shells missing around their gills
"We've fished here all our lives and have never seen anything like
this," he added.
Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, LA, is finding
crabs "with holes in their shells,
shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their
shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are
dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and
they smell like they've been dead for a week".
Rooks is also finding
eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with
their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills.
"We also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and
fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others
with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills."
Rooks, who grew up fishing with her parents, said she had never seen
such things in these waters, and her seafood catch last year was
"ten per cent what it normally is".
is a third generation seafood processor in Hancock
"I've seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the
white shrimp have been wiped out," Ladner said. "The
shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on
their heads, and are seeing this everyday."
has also seen
crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one of
US Food and Drug Administration
officials if the
government would protect him from
litigation if someone got sick from
eating his seafood.
"They wouldn't do
it," he said.
"I'm worried about
the entire seafood industry of the Gulf
being on the way out.
Eyeless shrimp, from a catch of 400 pounds of eyeless
shrimp, said to be caught September 22, 2011, in
Barataria Bay, Louisiana
"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents,
such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve
oil, grease, and rubber,"
said Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez
"It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic
to people, something the medical community has long known".
The dispersants also mutate, a disturbing fact that
could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example,
have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have
existed since BP's disaster began, giving the chemicals time to
enter the genome.
Cowan believes chemicals named
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
from BP's submerged oil to blame.
group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude
oil that has spent time in the ocean and eventually reaches shore,
and can be formed when oil is burned".
US Environmental Protection Agency
skin, and eye contact.
Health impacts of
vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system
damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system
depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and
They can disturb the growth and development of an embryo
Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist and Macarthur Fellow, has conducted tests
on seafood and sediment samples along the Gulf for chemicals present
in BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants.
"Tests have shown significant levels of oil pollution in oysters and
crabs along the Louisiana coastline,"
Subra said. "We
have also found
high levels of hydrocarbons in the soil and
A survey by the University of South Florida found the same results
as Cowan's: a
2%-5% infection rate
in the same oil impact areas, and not just with red
snapper, but with more than
20 species of fish with lesions.
% of the fish had lesions, and later sampling
expeditions found areas where, alarmingly,
50% of the fish
Cowan asked NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
how many fish they found with sores prior to 2010. The answer?
tenth of one percent.
"What we think is that it's attributable to chronic exposure to
released in the process of weathering of oil on the seafloor," Cowan
said. "There's no other thing we can use to explain this phenomenon.
We've never seen anything like this before."
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said in a statement 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. Louisiana seafood continues to go through
extensive testing to ensure that seafood is safe for human
consumption. More than 3,000 composite samples of seafood, sediment
and water have been tested in Louisiana since the start of the
spill." Statement by Bobby
Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
"Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the
world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it
was before the accident." Statement by BP
claims that fish lesions are common. They also claim that documented
evidence shows that parasites and other agents were causing lesions
in the Gulf before the Deep Horizon spill.
But evidence of ongoing contamination continues to mount.
Crustacean biologist Darryl Felder has been monitoring the vicinity
of BP's Macondo well
both before and after the oil disaster began.
"So we have before and after samples to compare to," he added. "We
have found seafood with
lesions, missing appendages, and other
Felder also has samples of
inshore crabs with lesions.
"...We see lesions that are eroding down through their
shell. We just got these samples last Thursday and are studying them
now, because we have no idea what else to link this to as far as a
According to Felder, there is
an even higher incidence of shell
disease with crabs in deeper waters.
Felder and his team are continuing to document the incidents. "From
what we can tell, there
is a far higher incidence we're finding after the spill. We are also seeing much lower diversity of crustaceans.
We don't have the same number of species as we did before [the
Whitehead co-authored Genomic and
physiological footprint of the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill on resident marsh
White's work is critically
important - it shows a
direct link between BP's oil and the
negative impacts on the Gulf's food web
after the oil
"What we found is a
very clear, genome-wide signal, a very
clear signal of exposure to the toxic
components of oil that coincided with
the timing and the locations of the
oil," Whitehead said.
said the species, killfish, is an
indicator species because they are the
most abundant marsh fish and most important
forage animal in their communities.
"That means that
most of the large fish that we like to
eat and that these are important
fisheries for, actually feed on the
killifish," he explained. "So if there
were to be a big impact on those
animals, then there would probably be a
cascading effect throughout the food
web. I can't think of a worse animal to
knock out of the food chain than the
Whitehead says we could be seeing just
the beginning of a
"Impacts on those species are more than
likely going to propagate out and effect
other species. What this shows is a very
direct link from exposure to DWH oil and
a clear biological effect. And a clear
biological effect that could translate
to population level long-term
is a biological
oceanographer and a marine and oyster biologist. He is
greatly concerned about the area's hundreds of dolphin deaths since BP's disaster began.
He feels they are directly linked to the BP oil
systems are picking up whatever is in
the system out there, and we know the
oil is out there and working its way up
the food chain through the food web -
and dolphins are at the top of that food
chain. The chemicals then move into their
lipids, fat, and then when they are
pregnant, their young rely on this fat,
and so it's no wonder dolphins are
having developmental issues and still
Cake believes we
are still in the short-term impact stage
of BP's oil disaster. He points to:
Ixtoc-1 oil disaster in Mexico's Bay of
Campeche. The oysters, clams, and
mangrove forests have still not
recovered in the Yucatan Penisula.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil
disaster. The herring
industry in Alaska was nearly destroyed. It has not
returned to normal.
"I will not be
alive to see the Gulf of Mexico
recover," said Cake, who is 72 years
old. "Without funding and serious
commitment, these things will not come
back to pre-April 2010 levels for
the physical signs
of the disaster continue, funding to
address the problems is running out.
to pull up oil in our nets," Rooks said.
"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."
that every day, hundreds of pounds
of tar balls are washing up on beaches across the region.
And fishermen are finding tar balls in
their crab traps on a regular basis.
Cowan is concerned about what he's finding."We've also seen a
decrease in biodiversity in fisheries in
certain areas. We believe we are now
seeing another outbreak of incidence
increasing, and this makes sense, since
waters are starting to warm again, so
bacterial infections are really starting
to take off again. We think this is a
problem that will persist for as long as
the oil is stored on the seafloor."
Felder wants to
continue his studies, but now is up
against insufficient funding."We are up
against social and economic challenges
that hamper our ability to get our
information out, so the politics have
been as daunting as the problem [we are
studying] itself," Felder says. "But my
funding is not coming from a source that
requires me to be quiet."
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