…the media has greatly exaggerated damage found in studies about coral, which is in some ways more vulnerable to oil and dispersant. Most of it is doing fine.
The growth of the fish population is not occurring because oil is good for fish. Rather, it is occurring because fishing is bad for fish. When fishing was banned for months during the spill, the Gulf of Mexico experienced an unprecedented marine renaissance that overwhelmed any negative environmental consequences the oil may have had, researchers say.Even the researchers themselves, however, were surprised by the results. â€œWe expected there to be virtually no fish out there based on all the reports we were getting about the toxicity of the dispersant and the toxicity of the hydrocarbons, and reports that hypoxia [low oxygen] had been created as a result of the oil and dispersant,â€ says John Valentine, who directed the study. â€œIn every way you can imagine, it should have been a hostile environment for fish and crabs; our collection showed that was not the case.â€
Also surprising was how quickly the populations grew. â€œIn the cosmic scheme of things, a matter of four or five months led to this huge difference in everything, sharks, fish of all forms, even the juvenile fish found in sea-grass beds. Thatâ€™s a pretty interesting and unanticipated outcome, I would say,â€ says Valentine. The surge is so robust, he says, that it may be impossible to determine whether the oil spill has had any effect on sea life at all.
Valentine says the study doesnâ€™t let BP off the hook â€” Gulf fishermen have suffered real and costly damage from the closure and from what he calls the â€œsociological phenomenonâ€ thatâ€™s scared consumers away from Gulf seafood.
But nor does it excuse President Obamaâ€™s disastrous panic and overreaction in temporarily banning oil drilling in the Gulf, especially since official reports are now saying that the oil will be disposed of naturally, as experts predicted. Oil is being measured in parts per billion â€” meaning the water is safe enough to drink â€” and very little has been found on the ocean bottom. Much of it has been eaten by bacteria native to the Gulfâ€™s oil seeps, and another new study shows that other microscopic creatures including flagellates and ciliates ate the bacteria, and in turn provided food for plankton.