NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has just released initial photos and reports from the Ocean Explorer research project in the Gulf of Mexico. The news is not good. Widespread dead and dying coral were observed (up to 90% at one site) near the Macondo wellhead.
The chief scientist on the expedition, Charles Fisher, Ph.D., professor of biology at Penn State University, was unequivocal on the cause of the dead coral:
“The compelling evidence that we collected constitutes a smoking gun,” Fisher said. “The circumstantial evidence is extremely strong and compelling because we have never seen anything like this — and we have seen a lot; the visual data for recent and ongoing death are crystal clear and consistent over at least 30 colonies; the site is close to the Deep Water Horizon; the research site is at the right depth and direction to have been impacted by a deep-water plume, based on NOAA models and empirical data; and the impact was detected only a few months after the spill was contained.”
“The proximity of the site to the disaster, the depth of the site, the clear evidence of recent impact, and the uniqueness of the observations all suggest that the impact we have found is linked to the exposure of this community to either oil, dispersant, extremely depleted oxygen, or some combination of these or other water-borne effects resulting from the spill,” Fisher said.
In a NY Times post today, Dr. Fisher is quoted as saying he had expected to see some subtle effects from the oil. Instead, he found an ecosystem in collapse. Unfortunately, we are certain that stories like this will be continuing for years to come.
Sadly, this news comes as Texas Republican Joe Barton prepares to assume the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairmanship. Barton, the BP apologist. Now is not the time to compromise. The evidence is overwhelming. We must change our approach if we and our world are to survive.
For more information on the Ocean Explorer expedition and the Gulf of Mexico eco-disaster:
Penn State Live
MSNBC: Investigating the Spill
Food & Water Watch
RestoreTheGulf.gov – The Official Story
Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute
Gulf Restoration Network