February 24, 2011
The full extent of the damage caused by the BP oil disaster last April may not become apparent for at least another decade, says Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia. Contrary to claims made by BP’s compensation fund that the Gulf will fully recover by 2012, Joye says that 2012 will more than likely mark the point at which some of the more serious Gulf damage begins to come to light.
Under healthy conditions, multitudes of organisms and microorganisms populate the Gulf seafloor and provide oxygenation for sediment and food for other species. These creatures, which play a vital role in the aquatic food chain, were largely devastated by the oil disaster, though the issue has not been addressed. In time, this hidden devastation throughout the entire aquatic ecosystem will become apparent, and the end result will not be pretty.
“Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans — all of those were substantially impacted — and by impacted, I mean essentially killed,” said Joye, concerning the damage. “Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn’t see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They’re typically everywhere, and we saw none.”
The long-term effects of the absence of these creatures will be a loss of the many other creatures that live near the surface, which include many varieties of fish and other sea creatures that humans use for food. If these creatures ultimately die due to a major break in the food chain, fisheries around the Gulf will no longer be able to operate, and many species of Gulf fish could cease to exist.
“I do believe that (the Gulf) will recover from this insult, but I don’t think it’s going to recover fully by 2012,” added Joye. “I think it’s going to be 2012 before we begin to really see the fisheries [sic] implications and repercussions from this.”
Sources for this story include: