Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Gulf one year after oil spill

In one year after the Gulf suffered a massive oil spill, just how bad is the damage?

In this two picture combo, at left, oil smeared pelican eggs are seen in a nest on Cat Island on May 22, 2010, home to hundreds of brown pelican nests aswell at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills, as it directly is impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil Spill in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Lousiana. The photo on right, made at the same spot on April 8, 2011, show the island significantly eroded and the marsh grass and mangrove trees that pelicans nest on decimated, as the island was completely overwashed by oil and poorly maintained booms impacted it as well. (AP)

Predictions that the millions of barrels oil would truly be catastrophic for the Gulf and its coast, and that fishermen who invested their lives in the industry were convinced they'd never fish again, marine life in the Gulf has regrouped. Roughly 4.9 million barrels of oil blew out of BP's broken well and bled into the water, with a portion making landfall along the coastline. Even the cleanup had an impact on the environment, so scientists caution that a single year isn't long enough to draw any final conclusions about such a huge environmental disaster.

Scientific studies later revealed much of the oil that remained in the water had largely disappeared, thanks to microbe bacteria that digested much of the oil and methane that remained. Thanks to nature's perfect order, ocean currents kept oil from reaching shore. Valuable fisheries seemed to have escaped the worst damage. The Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M estimated in a report the region's shrimp fisheries would rebound to normal within two years, while blue crab populations would be back to normal this year and commercial fish species largely escaped negative impact. However, oyster beds were hit hard by the oil and might take up to a decade to recover.

The lengthy moratorium on fishing in much of the Gulf may have even given some fish species a much needed break allowing them to recover in population. In recent weeks, marine biologists have found an unusually high number of dead dolphins washing up on the Gulf Coast--scientists suspect many of the species' young were being born during the spill.

"The Gulf spill is far from over," said Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation. A year has passed, but we may only be at the beginning.

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