BP oil spill contaminated Gulf food chain, study says
Houston Business Journal
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 11:10am CDT
A new study shows that traces of oil have shown up in tiny creatures in the Gulf of Mexico food chain as a result of the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill could have long-term effects on the Gulf of Mexico’s aquatic food chain, a new study says.
BP Plc’s (NYSE: BP) Macondo well at the site leaked approximately 53,000 barrels of oil per day from April 20 to July 15, 2010. The study, “Macondo-1 well oil-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in mesozooplankton from the northern Gulf of Mexico,” found that oil has contaminated zooplankton, one of the first links in the oceanic food chain.
“Traces of oil in the zooplankton prove that they had contact with the oil and the likelihood that oil compounds may be working their way up the food chain,” Dr. Michael Roman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science said in a statement accompanying the study.
Baby fish and shrimp feed on the tiny, drifting zooplankton, and then introduce contamination and pollution to the larger sea creatures in the food web.
At the time of the oil spill, Houston restaurateurs and food distributors were hit hard by shortages of popular delicacies such as oysters and crabs while regulators scrambled to determine the affects of the spill on marine life.
Researchers identified the Macondo well’s unique chemical “fingerprint” of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Gulf of Mexico zooplankton. The study shows the chemical fingerprint was present in some zooplankton as much as a month after the leaking wellhead was capped.
However, the report describes the geographic extent of the zooplankton contamination as “patchy.” Some zooplankton far away from the spill were contaminated, but some near the spill site had lower levels of contamination.
East Carolina University led the study with researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Oregon State University , Georgia Institute of Technology , and U.S. Geological Survey. It was published in the February issue of Geophysical Research Letters.