US & Canada
Science & Technology
In Pictures: Gulf Coast ecosystem in peril
After marine wildlife throughout region were exposed to oil and dispersants, many species experienced mass deaths.
On April 20, 2010, the United States experienced the beginning of the country(***)s largest environmental disaster in its history, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, flooding the Gulf of Mexico with at least 4.9 million barrels of crude oil over an 87-day period.
29 Apr 2012
Compounding the devastating effects of the oil itself, were at least 1.9m gallons of toxic chemicals and industrial solvents which where poured into the ocean in an attempt to disperse the oil.
Many of these chemicals, such as the petroleum distillates and especially 2-butoxyethanol, are medically known to be teratogenic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic, and exposure to them can lead to a long list of serious health effects, including death.
Marine and wildlife throughout the region were exposed to the oil and dispersants, resulting in mass deaths of many species including turtles, dolphins, birds, fish and crustaceans.
Fishermen and women along the Gulf Coast are telling of record low seasonal harvests of shrimp, oysters, and fish, with many of the coastal leases yielding 75-90 percent less than normal.
Keath Ladner, a third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi, told Al Jazeera that the brown shrimp catch has dropped by two-thirds, and that the white shrimp have been wiped out.
Most commercial fishing areas in the oil disaster effected areas are open to commercial fishing, and the state and federal governments have declared that the seafood is safe and is not testing positive to the toxic oil and dispersant chemicals.
Tracy Khuns and Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria Bay, Louisiana, have been finding eyeless shrimp and other seafood deformities in their waters, and believe the cause to be chemicals from BP(***)s oil and dispersants.
Kuhn(***)s told Al Jazeera that in September 2011 their friend caught 400 pounds of eyeless white shrimp, and said that at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, an area heavily impacted by BP(***)s oil and dispersants, were eyeless.
When asked to comment on allegations about deformed seafood, BP provided Al Jazeera with this statement: "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."
Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network, continues to find tar balls along the beaches and oil in the marshes of Louisiana. Al Jazeera recently documented massive submerged tar mats being excavated by BP clean up crews.
There continue to be unexplained mass deaths of many species along the coast, from dolphins to birds. Gulf Coast residents and scientists are concerned for the future and the health of their ecosystems and the food chain.
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