Scientists Alarmed by Number of Diseased Fish in the Gulf

Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress.

One year after the BP oil catastrophe, marine life in the Gulf of Mexico is exhibiting some disturbing trends. Over 150 dead dolphins, including several with oil from the BP spill on their bodies, have washed up along the Gulf Coast this year. Now, scientists are expressing grave concern over the shocking number of fish they’ve discovered in inland waterways and the Gulf of Mexico with skin lesions, fin rot, spots, liver blood clots and other health problems. Richard Snyder, director of the University of West Florida Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, calls the discovery of so many diseased fish “a huge red flag“:

In the years following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the herring fishery collapsed and has not recovered, according to an Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee report. The herring showed similar signs of illness — including skin lesions — that are showing up in Gulf fish

Many of the symptoms scientists see in Gulf fish are consistent with oil exposure. If these recent trends prove to be a result of the BP disaster, then this could very well be a sign of worse things to come. Scientists currently working in the gulf stress that “findings so far demonstrate that studies need to continue far into the future,” again emphasizing the critical need for significant investment in scientific study and the long-term restoration of the Gulf.

The lesson of Prince William Sound’s herring fishery shows that the most devastating effects of the spill could take several years to present themselves. Therefore, Congress, which has failed to pass any sort of post-spill legislation, must use its authority to ensure BP and other responsible parties continue to be held accountable and that funds are directed into research and restoration projects.