Dozens of fish species in danger in U.S. oil leak, expert says
The pancake batfish, which was discovered just six months ago, could be wiped out by the massive oil spill.
Mon, May 31, 2010 at 03:48 PM
FISHY SITUATION: A dead fish sits on the beach the morning after tar balls from the Gulf oil spill started washing ashore on Dauphin Island, Ala. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Dozens of species of fish, including one just discovered six months ago, could be wiped out by the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that has been spewing crude into the sea for six weeks, a scientist said Monday.
"We may very well lose dozens of vulnerable fish species," Prosanta Chakrabarty, a fish scientist at Louisiana State University, told AFP by email.
"Currently there are no reports about massive fish kills being sighted, but I'm afraid that a lot of damage is being done below the surface where the majority of oil is," he said.
A species of bottom-dwelling fish called pancake batfish, which Chakrabarty discovered around six months ago in the area of the oil spill, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana, are particularly threatened by the oil that is hanging in large plumes underwater.
Pancake batfish eat small invertebrates, which Chakrabarty said will be "hit hardest by the oil and dispersant mix" washing around in the Gulf.
BP has been using a dispersant called Corexit to try to break up the millions of barrels of oil that are estimated to have gushed into the gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded six weeks ago on April 20 and sank into the sea two days later with the loss of 11 lives.
"We know the oil and dispersant are toxic, and these batfish are low on the food chain, so I am worried that they will be susceptible," said Chakrabarty, who is due to publish a paper on the newly discovered fish in August.
"Unfortunately, by August the oil spill will have leaked scores of millions of gallons of oil into their habitat, as well as a million gallons of toxic dispersant," he said, fearing the batfish might not live until they are introduced to the world in his report.
BP engineers are scrambling to prepare their next bid to stop the oil from gushing into the sea, by using robotic submarines to cut off the burst pipe and then capping it before siphoning the oil up to vessels the surface.
But officials from the British oil giant warned they may not be able to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak until August, when twin relief wells have been drilled.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition