It’s been two years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve examined some of the consequences of this event earlier, but reverberations from the ecological disaster continue to be felt.
Fishermen in the region are finding significant deformities in large proportions of their catch: eyeless shrimp, fish covered with lesions, missing appendages, and others. As Al Jazeera reports:
“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 told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab.
According to Whitehead, the killifish is an important indicator species because they are the most abundant fish in the marshes, and are known to be the 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…
Two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are just beginning to understand its impact beneath the surface. Two new studies done by NOAA and WHOI scientists and their partners have shed new light on the spill’s impact on deep water corals and marine mammals.
The first report, whose contributors include six scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and that was published this week, finds “compelling evidence” that the spill has impacted deep-sea corals in the region:
“These corals exhibited varying levels of stress, from bare skeleton, tissue loss, to excess mucous production, all associated with a covering of brown flocculent material,” said Tim Shank, a WHOI biologist and an expert in life in the deep ocean. “This was 11 kilometers southwest of the well and underscores the magnitude of the release and potential impact to other deep-water ecosystems. Corals like these in particular serve as hosts to other animals—crabs, shrimp and brittle stars that may be impacted by the loss of their habitat.”
The researchers used an exacting method of petroleum analysis, which allowed them to confirm that the oil found…
Last week, the head of the World Bank Robert B. Zoellick announced the establishment of a Global Partnership for Oceans to confront widely documented problems of over-fishing, marine degradation, and habitat loss. Speaking at the Economist World Oceans Summit in Singapore, Zoellick described the initiative:
This Partnership will bring together countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organizations, foundations, and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals. These goals can sharpen our focus, encourage common and reinforcing efforts, and compel us to measure performance. Together, we will build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them. We can also mobilize financing where there are gaps.
There are an estimated 350 million jobs worldwide that are linked in one way or another to the oceans, so it’s not surprising that the World Bank has taken an interest, bringing together major NGOs, regulatory bodies, and private funding to tackle these issues. But what about the specifics? The Partnership has identified four major goals for the next 10 years:Rebuilding at least half the world’s fish stocks identified as depleted:…
SOSF-sponsored marine podcast Naked Oceans is back for a second series, with this month’s episode focusing on life and death in the ancient seas. Listen in to learn about how life emerged from the oceans – and how it almost came to an end, as well as what the past can tell us about the future of life in the seas. As always, you can download the episodes for free at the Naked Oceans website or on iTunes.
In July 2012, the 12 th ICRS will welcome over 2,500 delegates from around to world to the tropical city of Cairns, Australia, to attend 1,500 talks and posters presenting the latest research on the world’s coral reefs. The Reef Sharks and Coral Reefs mini-symposium will focus on research into the ecological roles of reef sharks in coral reef ecosystems; the environmental, biological, ecological and behavioural factors affecting the strength and dependence of these interactions; techniques for studying reef shark ecology; and methods to monitor reef shark populations. The mini-symposium will also explore the implications of reef shark declines, and the ramifications of recent research for their conservation and management.
Registration opens: 1 August 2011. Deadline for abstract submission: 1 February 2012. Early-bird registration closes: 1 March 2012. Click here to visit the website for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium.
The first 12-episode season of SOSF-sponsored podcast Naked Oceans, from Cambridge University-based Naked Scientists, has drawn to a close. We’re happy to announce that a second series is already in the works, but in the meantime, here is a recap of all the episodes so far:
1. July 2010. The problem of oil spills
We investigate the impacts of oil spills on the marine environment, hunting down the hidden world of microbes in Louisiana wetlands, tracing the fingerprint of oil in open oceans plankton communities, and we discuss the likely fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And 14 years on, we head to the south coast of Wales to find some of the survivors of the Sea Empress Oil Spill.
2. August 2010. Climate change and the oceans
One of the most pervasive problems in the oceans today, we dive into the science of climate change to find out what changes are we already seeing and what the prospects are for the future. We call in on the Arctic and the Antarctic to find out what’s going on in some of the most vulnerable parts of the…
A high-level international workshop on the state of the world’s oceans took place at the University of Oxford earlier this year, where 27 participants from 18 organisations in 6 countries concluded that if the current trajectory of damage continues, the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.
The scientific panel looked at the latest research focusing on the primary threats to the marine environment and came to some stark conclusions:The combination of stressors on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every major extinction of species in the Earth’s history. The rate of degeneration in the ocean is far faster than anyone has expected. Many of the negative impacts previously identified are worse than anyone had predicted. Although difficult to assess because of the unprecedented speed of change, the first steps to globally significant extinction may have begun with a rise in the extinction threat to species such as reef-forming corals.
Dr Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which convened the workshop said:
“The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect…