Nineteen percent of the Gulf of Mexico is now off-limits to fishing thanks to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The impact of the spill on wildlife is also becoming more apparent.
The decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand the fishing ban means it now covers 45,728 square miles – nearly double what it was on Monday. It now stretches up the coast of Louisiana, near where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank on April 20, all the way to the coast of Florida. Obviously, the expanded fishing ban is a major blow to the seafood industry, and those who rely on it for their income.
According to a New York Times report, over the past few days, evidence has emerged that the spill is taking a toll on the region’s wildlife. An official with the Fish and Wildlife Service said during a teleconference yesterday that 156 sea turtle fatalities had been recorded in the gulf since April 30, about 100 more than usual at this time of year. Thirty-five oily birds had been recovered, including 23 dead birds directly linked to the spill.
The official also warned that dead turtles and oiled birds are only a small part of the spill’s impact, and that most concerning is what can’t be seen. The oil, as well as chemicals used to disperse it, may be harming deepwater corals as well as whales and birds that live miles offshore. The service is “preparing for the likelihood that it will exist in the gulf ecosystem in years to come,â€ he said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, fears that the spill could impact even the East Coast are growing. An official with the NOAA said a thread of oil from the spill already may have entered the Loop Current. That current turns into the Gulf Stream, which runs up the East Coast roughly to Cape Hatteras, N.C. before heading out to sea.
Any oil now in the Loop Current would reach Florida in about 10 days, and then start heading up the East Coast, the Journal said.
As we reported yesterday, 20 tar balls had already washed up on a state-park beach in the Florida Keys earlier this week. They are being analyzed to see if they did come from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Meanwhile, BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from TransOcean, LTD, is still trying to staunch the leaking well, which has been gushing at least 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the sea. Earlier this week, the oil giant began using a 4-inch-wide, mile-long tube to siphon some of the oil from a leaking pipe on the ocean floor to a drill ship on the surface. BP said it was capturing about 40 percent of the oil coming from the pipe in this manner.
However, according to The New York Times, video taken by robotic submersibles that BP released yesterday show oil leaking furiously from the ruptured well pipe at a volume that appears virtually indistinguishable from what was shown in footage taken a week ago. Also, there appeared to be another breach in the drill pipe, closer to the wellhead in the new video, the Times said.
The tube is just a temporary fix. BP is getting ready to try a procedure called a â€œtop killâ€ to permanently seal the well. A top kill involves pumping heavy drilling mud into the well through the blowout preventer. The mud would be followed by cement, which would permanently seal the well.