How Isaac could affect wildlife and marine life already hurt from oil spill

August 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills

By: Laurie Wiegler

As Isaac develops into a hurricane today, many are thinking not only of themselves but of their pets and of the wildlife and marine life that grace the Gulf of Mexico region.

In anticipation of the hurricane, Examiner tapped an expert to talk about these matters, Peter Tuttle, a Contaminants Specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Deepwater Horizon NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment) Office in Daphne, Ala.

Following is the transcript of that e-mail conversation from today:

Examiner: Isaac could hit areas greatly impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill. What do you know about wildlife and marine life still in these areas, and which would be hardest hit?

The Gulf Coast supports a rich diversity of fish and wildlife and a variety of species occur in areas potentially impacted by the storm. On a positive note, bird nesting season is largely complete and many of the bird species that winter on the Gulf Coast have not yet arrived in the area. On the negative side, loggerhead sea turtle nesting season is in full swing, and many nests are at risk of flooding.

Examiner: Do animals and fish naturally have a sense to swim away from hurricanes? Can they get away fast enough?

Hurricanes are naturally-occurring events on the Gulf Coast. The plant and animal species that occur on the Gulf Coast have adapted to these periodic disturbances. As strong storm systems move in, there are shifts in water levels, temperature, and air pressure. Animals are sensitive to these quick shifts in conditions. Animals respond and seek refuge, whether it be thicker cover, higher ground, or deeper water.

Examiner: As horrific as a hurricane is for man, is there an upside at all when we think of the Gulf of Mexico? Could Isaac actually flush out some of the oil and contaminants (Corexit) still left in gulf? Is this just too simplistic?

The fate of much of the oil released in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill remains uncertain. Oil remains in some coastal marshes and submerged oil mats remain in some offshore areas. As such, hurricanes and tropical storms pose a risk of remobilizing this oil and causing recontamination in coastal areas.

Examiner: Are you seeing any improvement in the numbers of fish and wildlife in the Gulf? How, for example, is the brown pelican population doing? Are babies born to oil-spill-affected mothers surviving? What about egrets? Other birds and fish?

State and Federal Natural Resource Trustees are continuing to collect and evaluate information on the effects of the oil spill to fish and wildlife in the Gulf. In some cases, affected species appear to be recovering, while in other cases there is cause for continuing concern. The full impact of the spill on the survival and reproduction of fish and wildlife resources may not be understood for some time.

To read about the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries closures due to Isaac, please click here.

Read more about Laurie Wiegler here:


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