What percentage of the Gulf oil still remains is up for debate. No one, including NOAA
, can agree. Not a good sign, especially as confidence in government seems to weaken daily.
Are microbes able to break down that oil in the plume (that everyone seems to admit now exists)? Or will it just break down into another nasty toxic form? The big economic bottom question is whether and when the seafood is safe to eat.
And big wildlife question
Dan Cristol from the Biology Department at the College of William and Mary wrote last week in the Virginia Gazette about the unseen dangers to migrating birds that won't be witnessed until fall. Virginia lies along the migrating path for millions of birds. He said, "Even if 50 percent or 25 percent were gone, that's still millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf remaining to poison seafood and wildlife."
What does the number of dead animals reveal? Cristol believes it's deceptive, "Because the Gulf spill occurred far offshore, at great depth, most of the dead whales and tuna and birds will never wash up onshore as they did after the nearshore Exxon Valdez spill. Further, birds don't nest in vast, dense colonies on the shores of the Gulf as they do in the Arctic, so the immediate impact is smaller."
But what happens to birds as they fly south for the winter? Cristol explains, "All of our neotropical migrant birds will travel to the Gulf this autumn and attempt a crossing to the Caribbean or Central America. Being fouled with tarballs, failing to find safe roosts in devastated marsh habitat, or eating oil-laden crabs before setting out on the journey will doom them. The people that I have spoken to who are actually monitoring habitat and birds in the Gulf all say something like, "It's far worse than you could ever imagine," when I ask them about what they are finding. They didn't get the memo that all the oil has magically disappeared."
Stay tuned as spin doctors continue on their mission of confusing the public. Our skepticism will continue for some time because scientific data collection and assessment does not come at a rapid pace. It's not time to celebrate yet.