Oil Spill Update: Ban Might Help Fisheries Recover; Hurricane Predictions; Dolphins and Sea Turtles; Oil Plume Controversy

Oil Spill Update: Ban Might Help Fisheries Recover; Hurricane Predictions; Dolphins and Sea Turtles; Oil Plume Controversy

Alisa Opar
Published: 05/18/2010

A pelican swims in a make-shift pool after being cleaned of oil at the Clean Gulf Associates Mobile Wildlife Rehabilitation Station. Photo: US Navy

Here’s a roundup of the latest oil spill news, from the mysterious underwater oil plumes, to BP's recovery advances, to the slick's impact on sea turtles, dolphins, and birds. 

Fishing ban might help fisheries recover, expert says

Since May 2, NOAA has halted all commercial and recreational fishing in oil spill-affected waters. The closure area now measures 24,241 square miles, or about 10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone. While experts are concerned about marine animals swimming through the toxic slick, marine biologist Daniel Pauly says there just might be an up side to the fishing ban.
From On Earth:

The Gulf has just been declared a large marine protected area as a result of the spill—no fishing! It is possible that a massive rebound of the fish population will occur because we are not fishing them. If the fishing is discontinued for a month or two, or a season, we may see massive changes in the Gulf. 
Hurricanes and oil spill don’t mix
The start of hurricane season—June 1—is just around the corner. While the government won’t release its hurricane forecast for 2010 Atlantic hurricane season until Thursday, other experts have already speculated that we’ll see anywhere between eight and 18 named storms this year. How hurricanes might affect the oil spill area is largely unknown, but experts are concerned.
From ClimateWire (via The New York Times):

Several scientists are worried that a hurricane could drive oil inland, soiling beaches and wetlands and pushing polluted water up river estuaries.
"My 'oh, no' thought is that a hurricane would pick up that oil and move it, along with salt, up into interior regions of the state that I am convinced the oil will not reach otherwise," said Robert Twilley, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University. "The bottom line is, how much oil are we going to get into our wetlands? We don't know," he said. "This thing is gushing out in these huge numbers."
Dr. Erica Miller, a member of the Louisiana State Wildlife Response Team, cleans an oiled pelican at the Clean Gulf Associates Mobile Wildlife Rehabilitation Station on Ft. Jackson in Plaquemines Parish, La., on May 15. Photo: US Navy
Wildlife Update
In previous oil spills, the toll on wildlife has been dramatic—and obvious. In this instance, both because of the distance of the rig explosion from shore and the use of dispersants to break up oil, there have been relatively few oiled birds.
Dead dolphins and sea turtles have been washing up on shore in the Gulf though none have been visibly oiled, and officials haven’t determined whether any of them are victims of the spill.
From Reuters:

This is a time of year when dead or debilitated turtles would normally begin to show up with greater frequency, but the 156 found since April 30 along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida "are in higher numbers than you would expect," Ziccardi said. None of the animals had obvious signs of oil contamination. But, because of their proximity to the spill, they are being treated as possible victims of the crude oil that has been gushing from the ruptured wellhead since April 20, he said.

The 12 confirmed dead dolphin strandings along the same four Gulf Coast states, Ziccardi said, were "more or less in line" with what would normally be found for the same period of time without an oil spill.

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