According to Kimberly Blair with the Pensacola News Journal, scientists are deeply concerned by the discovery of unusual numbers of fish in the Gulf of Mexico and inland waterways with skin lesions, fin rot, spots, liver blood clots and other health problems.
“It’s a huge red flag,” said Richard Snyder, director of the University of West Florida Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation.
Blair claims Snyder and his colleagues, UWF biologist William Patterson III, and other scientists along the Gulf Coast, are attempting to determine if the illnesses are related to the BP oil spill, the cold winter, or some other cause.
With all due respect with regards to maintaining scientific objectivity, the answer seems strikingly obvious.
Patterson acknowledges observing troubling signs consistent with oil exposure: fish with lesions, external parasites, odd pigmentation patterns, and diseased livers and ovaries.
“These may be signs of compromised immune systems in fish that are expending their energy dealing with toxins,” Patterson said.
Blair notes that according to an Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee report, in the years following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the herring fishery collapsed and has not recovered. The herring showed similar signs of illness, says Blair, including skin lesions that are showing up in Gulf fish.
“I’ve had tens of thousands of fish in my hands and not seen these symptoms in so many fish before,” said Patterson, who has been studying fish, including red snapper, for 15 years. “All those symptoms have been seen naturally before, but it’s a matter of them all coming at once that we’re concerned about.”
Patterson is conducting the research with some of the $600,000 in BP money distributed to UWF from $10 million the oil company gave to the Florida Institute of Oceanography in Tampa to study the impact of the spill.
Heather Reed, a Pensacola marine biologist, and environmental adviser for the City of Gulf Breeze, is studying red snapper for a private client using more extensive testing methods than those mandated by the federal government, which she says are inept.
“I’ve been testing different organs in game fish that have been brought to me, and I’m seeing petroleum hydrocarbons in the organs,” said Reed. “I was shocked when I saw it.”
Blair says both Reed and Patterson claim it’s difficult to determine how many fish are found sick because commercial fishermen are protecting their livelihoods and are reluctant to report their findings, fearing fishing grounds will be closed.
Blair adds that Patterson and his colleagues are not trying to determine whether the seafood is safe for public consumption. “There is fish health and human health, and we’re concerned about the sublethal effects of the oil spill on communities of fish,” Patterson said.
Amazing Amounts of Oil Still Coming Onshore
Last month, Dr. Susan Shaw, a marine toxicologist said there’s “amazing amounts”of oil still coming onshore in the GOM.
In an interview conducted at Harmony for Health’s “Unity for the Gulf” fundraiser at New Orleans House of Blues on April 20, 2011, Dr. Shaw, Director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, discussed her ongoing efforts to study the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“You could see with your own eyes that the oil offshore was still coming onshore, just rolling in. In March we saw amazing amounts of oil coming onto the land still. There’s so much oil in the system that although we’d like to think its safe to eat the seafood and swim, but the fact is it is not safe, there is too much oil remaining in the system.
“There is no safe level of exposure to the compounds in oil,” says Shaw, “they are carcinogenic, they are mutagenic. Once they get into the body its like a ticking time bomb, like potential cancer impacts later in life. We have dolphins loaded up with oil; it’s like Russian roulette’ to eat the seafood..”
Taxpayers Responsible for BP’s Gulf Spill
To add insult to injury, Senate Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida says taxpayers are on the hook for about 29% of BP’s overall cleanup costs. Nelson has introduced a bill that would shut down deductions for legal, clean-up and other costs associated with oil spills in U.S. territorial waters as “ordinary and necessary” business expenses.
At the oil hearings last week, Sen. Nelson asked BP America chairman and president Lamar McKay whether it was justifiable that BP was attempting to take a tax write-off of $11.8 billion for costs associated with the spill.
“Surely, the Gulf oil spill was the result of wrongdoing, and yet you want to claim that as a tax credit,” Sen. Nelson said at the hearing. “BP may be entitled to this under the law, but that doesn’t make it right. BP agreed to pick up the entire tab for cleaning the mess up the Gulf. Shifting these costs back to the taxpayer shouldn’t be allowed.”
McKay said the company was not treating the expense deductions as a tax credit, and said the write-offs were justified as “standard business expenses.”