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Widespread Fish Kills Worry Gulf Scientists, Fishers, Environmentalists

By       Message Dahr Jamail     Permalink
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He said another factor is that dispersed oil "provides nutrients for phytoplankton, and this may have triggered a bloom of plankton, otherwise known as a red tide, and you would then have a fish kill from the red tide organisms. I understand that the phytoplankton out there is causing fish kills, but still the triggering mechanism is the presence of the oil and dispersants."

"A fish kill from a red tide, as I've observed, causes fish to come to the surface to be in distress, flopping around, and slowly they die, and new ones come up. This was not observed in any of these kills. All we had was a massive amount of dead fish coming to the surface," he said.

Two commercial fishermen in Mississippi who worked in BP's VOO programme, James Miller and Mark Stewart, recently told IPS they were eyewitnesses to BP spraying dispersants via airplane and from boats into areas of the Mississippi Sound, as well as outside the barrier islands.

"Right now there's barely any shrimp out there to catch," David Wallis, a fisherman from Biloxi, told IPS. "We should be overloaded with shrimp right now. That's not normal. I won't eat any seafood that comes out of these waters, because it's not safe."

Chasidy Hobbs, with Emerald Coastkeeper in Pensacola, Florida, is on the City of Pensacola Environmental Advisory Board and directs the environmental litigation research firm, Geography and Environment.

Hobbs recently informed IPS of a one mile-long fish kill on Aug. 20 near Pensacola, and said of the BP oil disaster and ongoing use of dispersants, "We're poisoning the entire Gulf of Mexico food web. It's criminal."

"There are two theories on what is causing these fish kills," Jonathan Henderson, with the Gulf Restoration Network, told IPS. "Hypoxia and the BP disaster. Whichever is the cause, they are both still bad."

Henderson has logged hundreds of hours in boats and planes across the Gulf documenting the oil disaster. He has seen fish kills himself.
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"A few weeks ago at Pass Christian, I saw flounder, trout, and crabs, washed up into the rock barriers in front of the marina," he said.

The growing dead zone in the Gulf, which scientists believe will be the size of Massachusetts this year, is now already extremely close to shore.

"The fact that the dead zone is this close to shore is alarming to me," Henderson said, "And we don't know the effect the dispersants are having on the dead zones and it very well may be that they are making it worse."

According to the EPA's latest analysis of dispersant toxicity released in the document 'Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species', Corexit 9500, along with 9527 - BP's two dispersants used in the Gulf - "at a concentration of 42 parts per million, killed 50 percent of mysid shrimp tested." Most of the remaining shrimp died shortly thereafter.

"Local fisherman in Alabama report sighting tremendous numbers of dolphins, sharks, and fish moving in towards shore as the initial waves of oil and dispersant approached in June," Environmentalist Jerry Cope wrote recently. "Many third- and fourth-generation fishermen declared emphatically that they had never seen or heard of any similar event in the past. Scores of animals were fleeing the leading edge of toxic dispersant mixed with oil. The Gulf of Mexico from the Source into the shore is a giant kill zone."
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"I was amongst all these dead fish in St. Bernard Parish," Dr. Cake added, "And there were off-bottom fish there as well, which was the same thing we had at the fish kills at Cat Island and Long Beach-Pass Christian, so I see a trend here. Prior to the BP oil spill and the widespread applications of dispersants in all three of these recent fish-kill areas, we have never had evidence of such widespread kills."

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DAHR JAMAIL He is author of the book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. Jamail's work has been featured on National Public Radio, the Guardian, The Nation, and The Progressive. He has received many (more...)

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