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:

Endangered species’ top 10 list: Save these ecosystems

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Oceana, an international ocean conservation group, yesterday released a new report that identifies vital habitats in need of protection, if key endangered species are to have a chance to survive climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5 C (3 to 5 F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, habitat loss, and declining food supply.

For species that are already struggling on the brink of extinction, global climate change threatens to push them over the edge, said Huta. We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to prioritize and protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife. Endangered species don’t have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change.

List of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. Arctic sea ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least six species of seal

2. Shallow water coral reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants

4. Southwest deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish and mammals

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainsons hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native amphibian species, including the Yellow-legged frog

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for the threatened Grizzly bear and other animals

9. The Gulf Coasts flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker

Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon, said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable.

Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but did not make the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species. These ecosystems include Glacier National Park, the Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush Steppe, U.S. West Coast, the Maine Woods, the Grasslands of the Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The new report, which includes information about each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at

Scientists ranked Arctic sea ice and shallow water corals as two of the highest priority ecosystems threatened by climate change in an Endangered Species Coalition report demonstrating the urgency of saving habitat for endangered species. The report, entitled Its Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World was released January 5th, and examines how the changing climate is increasing extinction risk for imperiled fish, plants and wildlife.

Have your say: Is the reality of climate change still in question?