April 20th marked the second anniversary of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, where roughly five million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Additionally, BP used nearly 2 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to break up and drive the oil under the ocean’s surface.
The threat of oil and dispersant contamination isn’t just from the water, but also from the wetlands, where sediment acts like a sponge soaking up toxic oil, destroying fish embryos and causing others to hatch late or develop heart defects.
Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors recently told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.
“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”
Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences learned about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen as far back as November 2010, and others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast conform Cowan’s findings.
Darla Rooks, from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, who has fished her whole life, told Al Jazeera she 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“.
Keath Ladner, a third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi, has seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and Ladner claims the white shrimp have been wiped out.
“The shrimp are immune compromised,” Ladner said. “We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday.” Ladner has also seen crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one of their claws.
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 told Al Jazeera. “We have also found high levels of hydrocarbons in the soil and vegetation.”
According to the NRDC research team, the FDA is using outdated science to establish a “level of concern”threshold above which contaminants pose unacceptable risks for consumers.
The FDA has irresponsibly set those levels way beyond safe thresholds, and actively promotes the consumption of Gulf seafood that poses grave risks to consumers, especially pregnant women and children.
That’s why when Keath Ladner met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration and asked them to promise that the government would protect him from litigation if someone was made sick from eating his seafood, the FDA refused.
“They wouldn’t do it,” he said, and added: “I’m worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out.”