BP Oil Spill Aftermath: Eyeless Shrimp, Clawless Crabs

Al Jazeera just published an astonishing report on the after-effects of the BP oil disaster, and it's not pretty. There are an alarming number of deformities in sea creatures: mutated shrimp, fish with sores and lesions, eyeless crabs and more. It's unlike anything local fisherman have ever seen.

How bad is it?

The effect that the oil spill and its reckless cleanup has on sea life is frightening, damning and sad. Here's a list of deformities that Al Jazeera found in its report:

  • Shrimp with tumours on their heads
  • Shrimp with defects on their gills and "shells missing around their gills and head"
  • Shrimp without eyes
  • Shrimp with babies still attached to them
  • Eyeless fish
  • Fish without eye-sockets
  • Fish without covers on their gills
  • Fish with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills
  • Crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one claw
  • Crabs with holes in their shells
  • Crabs with shells that have no spikes or claws or misshapen claws
  • Crabs that are dying from within

The fishermen, scientists and seafood processors who talked to Al Jazeera are all in unison: they've never seen this before. Some have worked in and around the Gulf for over 20 years, and most have seen thousands and thousands of fish. This is the first time they're seeing the mass mutation and destruction of seafood.

And it's not just the obvious deformities. Tests of the oysters that wind up on our plates have shown elevated levels of nickel and vanadium according to the Natural Resources defence Council. And the jury's still out on arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels.

When did this start?

Scientists and fishermen are pointing to the 2010 BP oil disaster -- and the dispersants and chemicals used in its cleanup -- for creating these deformities. Specifically, the solvents used to clean up the spill are powerful enough to dissolve oil, grease and rubber. That's great for cleaning up an oil disaster, but terrible for the environment and worse for humans, not to mention the toll taken on anything that lives in the Gulf. And the thing is, these dispersants have always been known to be mutagenic. The chemicals very probably altered the genome of sea life.

Prior to the spill, only one tenth of one per cent of Gulf fish had lesions or sores on them. After the spill, according to the University of South Florida, many locations showed 20 per cent of fish having lesions with as much as 50 per cent in other areas.

What exactly is the cause?

Dr Jim Cowan of Louisiana State University believes that chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which the EPA terms as "a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil that has spent time in the ocean", are causing the majority of problems. Fish and other sea creatures are being exposed to PAHs, which affect both the immediate health of the fish itself and the victim's genome.

On top of that, the dispersants used to clean up the oil spill are known to be toxic to humans. Symptoms of exposure include "headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage". Even more damningly, it can disturb the growth and development of a foetus.

Essentially: BP is cleaning up a spill with acid, and acting surprised when the floor disappears.

The US government has lost control

The FDA, EPA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) all refused to comment on the awfulness that's happening in the Gulf. BP, the company who created this mess in the first place, refuse to take the blame, saying the seafood in the Gulf is "as safe now as it was before the accident". The evidence, of course, indicates otherwise.

What happens next?

The Gulf of Mexico provides nearly half of the seafood caught in the US (40 per cent). With its inhabitants dying or suffering mutations before they're caught, it looks like seafood shortages are inevitable. According to various fishermen, brown shrimp catch has dropped by two-thirds, white shrimp have been wiped out and some fishermen's seafood catch are 10 per cent of what they normally are. Seafood, as America knows it, has changed. And without the proper funding or commitment or BP accepting the blame, these effects might last longer than anyone thinks.

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from the Gulf, says it best:

"We're continuing to pull up oil in our nets. Think about losing everything that makes you happy, because that is exactly what happens when someone spills oil and sprays dispersants on it. People who live here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters."

The cure may not have been worse than the disease. But it looks like it was nearly as bad. [Al Jazeera, Daily Comet, WSJ, Local 15 TV]

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    A host of oil drilling, mining, and other "dirty" industries have been going on for decades in the gulf and yet they choose to focus on one albeit large spill. Oh wait, surprise, its a non-American company they can blame for ALL that's wrong.

      I think you're missing the point

        No I'm not. All life gulf is effed. The leak at the BP owned oil rig has merely helped the process to worsen quicker. (Where do you think all the oil refineries along the Texas coast line have been dumping their waste?) Attempts to fix the problems, based on industry best practises, only hide the problem in the short term. The US as a whole needs to take responsibility for the state of the gulf.

          *All life in the gulf is effed.*

    righto....thats seafood off me dinner plate for an extended time then

    fear not ... carbon tax will fix all that

      If a carbon tax helps, even a little, to make big polluters take responsibility for their actions (and as we take benefit from their actions we should take some responsibility as well) then a carbon tax IS a very good to have.

        "responsibilities" how? as a business last thing I want is more responsibilities ... I want to keep the the profits tho ....

        if you think a carbon tax would do anything to change this you would be poorly mistaken. companies will just pass the cost on to you the consumers. it would be like VAT except worse. the cost of living would go through the roof.

          Alas it is you who are mistaken. Of course the cost of living will not go through the roof nor will the sky fall. You want cheap, plentiful and readily available but you care nought about the cost to the environment. And you want a government that says that anyone who says things are not good with the environment is talking crap. Sad indeed.

            only time will show but keep in mind money that government will be collecting will not be spend for anything environmental any time soon... actually put it tht way in a next year or so you will see some action in that direction that it will be another financial deficit some where and that hole will be patched with your environmental cash ... end of story

              This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

              hahahah if they were really cared.... they would not have approved the construction of 6 more coal port in QLD adding a further projected 1000 million tonne export a year! on top of what we currently export...
              Seriously this is just another tax and if more than 15% get spent on green initi i will be shocked, and at the end of the day wtf will that change if we are shipping 2000 million tonne of coal to china and india to burn... we may not be junkies but we will be selling the goods to others to use uncleanly...

    this is why I've stopped using BP since that oil spill.

    I was under the impression that fish oil was good for you...?

    Ahh yes, American and British bitch slapping contest.

    I am the fishermen from this story. If you would like to know how things are, feel free to ask. I can assure you that this story is far from over. In fact, it has just begun. I answered a call the other day asking for the name of an attorney for an oil spill clean up worker. I asked about the person. He said that he was a clean up worker, he got sick, went to the Dr. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and was sent to MD Anderson where he was then diagnosed with leukemia. He died three month ago. He was 19.

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