Inter Press Service
By Dahr Jamail
(original article here)
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Dead fish wash up at Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi, U.S., Aug 26, 2010 (IPS) - Another massive fish kill, this time in Louisiana, has alarmed scientists, fishers and environmentalists who believe they are caused by oil and dispersants.
On Aug. 22, St. Bernard Parish authorities reported a huge fish kill at the mouth of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.
"By our estimates there were thousands - and I'm talking about 5,000 to 15,000 - dead fish," St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro told reporters. "Different species were found dead, including crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout, red fish, you name it, included in that kill."
The next day, a thick, orange substance with tar balls and a "strong diesel smell" was discovered around Grassy Island, near the fish kill, according to a news release.
Taffaro admitted that there was oil in the area, but cautioned against assuming it was the cause of the fish kill.
Dr. Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, has "great concern" about this fish kill, and many others in recent weeks, which he feels are likely directly related to the BP oil disaster.
"As a scientist, my belief is that this fish kill is 75 percent likely due to hypoxic conditions, not enough oxygen in the water to sustain life," Dr. Cake said. "Because it was both bottom dwelling fish and crab, and other fish from the middle of the water column, whatever caused this covered the entire water column. That gives me great concern. The scientist in me says there was some other triggering mechanism."
Dr. Cake believes the "triggering mechanism" is likely oil and toxic dispersants from the BP oil disaster.
Recent weeks have seen other huge fish kills. One occurred in Mississippi from Long Beach to Pass Christian, and another at Cat Island. The kill earlier this week in East St. Bernard Parish is of note, because taken in the context of the other two, all of these areas share the same body of water that which comprises both of the Mississippi and Chandeleur Sounds.
On Aug. 18, a team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that gushed from the well "has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem".
Nevertheless, regarding the St. Bernard Parish fish kill, the head fisheries biologist for the state of Louisiana, Randy Pausina, blamed it solely on hypoxic conditions caused by extreme heat mixed with nutrient-rich waters.
But Dr. Cake, along with commercial fishermen and Gulf Coast environmentalists, are drawing direct parallels to BP's oil disaster and the use of toxic dispersants as the likely cause of the increased numbers of fish kills they are witnessing.
"There are several parallels to the spill," Dr. Cake added. "We have evidence from fisherman operating in the VOO [Vessels of Opportunity] fleet and fishermen in the area who observed the spraying of dispersants by both aircraft and vessels in the immediate vicinity of the fish kills. Therein lies one triggering mechanism."
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