MCS is deeply concerned as oil continues to spill into Gulf of Mexico

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 4 May 2010

MCS is deeply concerned as oil continues to spill into Gulf of Mexico Following the explosion and subsequent sinking of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers over a week ago, MCS says it is increasingly concerned about both the short and the long-term damage the continuing spill of oil will have on the area’s wildlife.

MCS is deeply concerned as oil continues to spill into Gulf of Mexico Following the explosion and subsequent sinking of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers over a week ago, MCS says it is increasingly concerned about both the short and the long-term damage the continuing spill of oil will have on the area’s wildlife. The spill could severly affect turtle nesting beaches, fish and fish eggs, seabirds, shrimp fisheries and oyster farms in both the open sea, and in key wetland areas on coastlines which may suffer a greater long-term impact. MCS says the combination of the nature of habitats and the oceanography of the area, the quantity and type of the oil being leached, and the long-term toxic effects of large oil spills on both man and nature will all have a part to play on the effects of this environmental disaster. The slick - currently as large as Jamaica - is leaking from an area 50miles from a complex system of tidal sandy and muddy areas at the mouth of the Mississippi delta. The considerable intertidal salt marsh areas provide nesting habitat, and wading / feeding areas for vast numbers of birds. The rather futile attempts to block the oil with surface booms from hundreds of miles of coast will not stop contamination of these areas. The Gulf has a clockwise current gyre which could push the slick towards the beaches and intertidal habitats of Alabama and northwest Florida, beyond those of Louisiana. The fuel is being leached from the seabed where it will be very complex, and costly to contain. There is the option of capping the leak at the seabed, or drilling a reserve well to relieve the pressure. The latter could take three months. The former could take at least two weeks, and may not succeed. All this suggests that the 42,000 gallons a day being leaked, could surpass the Exxon Valdez (11 million gallons) in terms of the scale of the leached contaminants. The heavier grade sections of this oil material will be most problematic - it will not evaporate, can’t be ‘burned off’, and will cause immediate damage to intertidal habitats, kill animals and plants living in sandy areas, and will smother seabirds. Over half a million seabirds were killed by the Exxon Valdez spill alone in 1989. The less obvious damage from the spill will come in the long-term effects on the whole ecology of the region. There is considerable evidence from the species affected by the Exxon Valdez, that the oil can cause vast problems for the egg development of fish, can cause mutations in the anatomy of higher mammals and fish, and have long-term implications to generations of species such as gastropods and crustaceans. Effects will also be felt by people working in wildlife and there are at least two wildlife refuges that will be direcly affected if the oil lands in significant quantities. People who live off the natural resources in the region will also be affected. Shrimp fishing an oyster farming are big business. Fishermen are fearing for their livelihoods, and many individuals will be affected emotionally by the spoiling of these vast natural habitats and wetlands. Hoteliers, and people in the tourism sector will also be severely affected. People at the sharp end of the Exxon Valdez were actually treated for Post Traumatic Stress.

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