Impact of the Gulf tragedy on marine life?

I can’t tear myself away from the coverage of the Gulf oil tragedy. It seems the solution to stopping the flow is days if not weeks away. I wonder why oil tankers aren’t being used to contain the oil from the spill?

The loss of human lives was tragic. The impact on  human lives will be tragic. What will be the impact on marine life?  This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for some of the most fragile, and important, ecosystems and breeding grounds for Gulf species that are in the midst of spawning season. It’s spring in the Gulf. Spawning, migrating, incubating, hatching. It’s all happening now. I keep hearing about how this is going to impact seafood production for a decade. OK. Well, this is going to impact the very survival of some species forever. Including Homo sapiens.

Particularly if this spill keeps gushing at 25,000 barrels, or 1,050,000 gallons a day. If the new estimate of 25,000 barrels is more accurate than 5,000—that means more than 11 million gallons have already been spilled into the Gulf, which means it’s already eclipsed the Exxon Valdez disaster and may end up being 6 to 7 times worse. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. And even harder since this spill hits literally and emotionally a lot closer to home.

Some marine species at risk are already endangered. Like the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. It’s nesting season for them and the Gulf shores are some of the last remaining nesting beaches for this species. To survive they need access to oil free beaches for egg laying and their return to the sea, not to mention the newly hatched offspring who need an oil free environment to survive.

At least twenty-one species of marine mammals inhabit the northern Gulf of Mexico, including sperm and killer whales and the beloved bottlenose dolphin. What will happen to them? Starvation, sickness and death.

Bluefin tuna—as one blog reader put it yesterday, is the unluckiest fish in the sea. First the unrelenting hunger for this already over-fished species in Japan and elsewhere is leading to high demand and decreased populations worldwide. Then CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) failure to list the bluefin as endangered — and the Japanese had the gall to serve bluefin sushi at a reception the night before the fatal and short-sighted decision by CITES to leave the bluefin’s fate to the commercial fishing industry. Now this? Bluefins are spawning in the Gulf right now and their populations have fallen 90% since the 1970s.

It’s bitterly ironic that I had an opportunity to interview Sylvia Earle about a happier topic — the OCEAN movie — a week after the oil rig exploded. That was before people began to realize what a dire situation was developing in the Gulf. I was itching to ask Dr. Earle questions about the spill, but I knew my time with her was limited and that those questions were off-topic. Instead I opted to revisit the chapters in Sea Change where she describes her experiences evaluating massive oil spills like the Exxon Valdez and the Persian Gulf spill, that massive intentional spill in 1991. I’m also reading her new book, The World is Blue, which also describes the impact of oil spills in the chapter titled “The Ills of Spills.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. ~ Benjamin Franklin

For the latest on the spill and volunteer information (please contact us with any additional information):

Army of volunteers needed for Gulf oil spill cleanup | Oiled Wildlife Care Network blog | Gulf of Mexico – Deepwater Horizon Incident site by Coast Guard, NOAA, Homeland Security, and BP/Transocean | Gulf Coast oil spill may take months to contain | Endangered Sea Turtles at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill | Animal Clean-Up After Oil Spill: A Lengthy Process | Volunteering info here or call 1-866-448-5816:

“BP has established a volunteer program and set up a toll-free number for people to call. When calling, people should communicate what they are volunteering for what areas they are available to work in. In addition, people can call to learn about the training that is required to work in oil spill clean-up operations. Oil Report Line/Volunteer Line – (866)-448-5816″

To report oiled or injured wildlife, call 1-866-557-1401 (please note the number and type of animals, the date and time they were seen, their location and any observations about their behavior).
To discuss spill-related damage claims, call 1-800-440-0858.
To report oil on land, or for general Community and Volunteer Information, call 1-866-448-5816.

» 10 Things You Can Do to Help the Gulf Coast Clean the Oil Spill

Update 5/4/10 from the CTURTLE listserv:

Concerning oil disaster jobs – the main effort is a VOLUNTEER force, few if any paid positions are available. Do you have your ICS 100, 200 and 700 certificates of training? If not, take the courses – they are free and online. ICS training is mandated to volunteer or have a paid position in most federal and state disaster relief efforts.

To Volunteer: (The phone number below is incorrect – the correct # 866-484-5816)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research (Tri-State) who is contracted by British Petroleum to provide wildlife assistance for species who may be impacted by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Service recognizes Tri-State’s expertise in wildlife oil spill response and, while many wildlife organizations and individuals have expressed interest in providing their assistance, all rehabilitation efforts must be coordinated through the Service and Tri-State. Coordination is vitally important for recovery and research efforts, and specific safety requirements and other requirements must be met before anyone will be allowed on-site for any participation.

The Service and Tri-State have designated a Paraprofessional Coordinator (PPC) to compile a list and organize scheduling of potential responders providing the information requested below. Paraprofessionals located within the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas will have first preference in scheduling and will be scheduled for efforts located within their home state.  If you are located outside of these states and are interested in providing wildlife assistance, please submit the same requested information. All responders will be contacted by the PPC when their assistance is needed.

State rehabilitation organizations, permitted wildlife rehabilitation organizations or private rehabilitators can help now by providing the following information if you would be available to assist in the oil spill response efforts.  You must include your name, address including city and state, phone number (prefer cell phone and alternate numbers), email address, if you have prior oil spill experience, and how far you can travel, as well as:

a. If you are a Rehabilitator with at least 6 months of experience;

b. What species you have experience with, i.e. wading birds, raptors, pelagic seabirds, waterfowl, etc.  It would also be beneficial to know if you are a veterinarian or an avian veterinarian, a veterinary technician, or a well-seasoned rehabilitator;

c. If you have a minimum of 4 hours of HAZCOM certification;

d. If you have Rabies pre-exposure shots;

e. Your availability. (this can be a rough estimate by identifying dates available)

Please direct inquires or any calls about your interest in providing wildlife assistance to fw4ppc@fws.gov or to 404-679-7049.

A paraprofessional is defined as individuals that:

1.    Either possess, or work directly under a person possessing, an active permit or authorization related to the species to be worked on;

2.    Are affiliated with a wildlife organization working within the Wildlife Branch of the Incident Command Structure (ICS),or are a staff member of a wildlife Trustee agency;

3.    Agree to work under, and abide by, appropriate planning documents prepared by the Unified Command (such as Site Safety Plan, Incident Action Plan, public affairs requirement, etc.) and

4.    Have a working knowledge and experience (at least 3 months) with the general protocol, procedures and safety hazards associated with working on the species of question.

Anyone who does not qualify as a paraprofessional and is still interested in volunteering, may register at Gulf of Mexico- Deepwater Horizon Incident http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/.

All oiled wildlife calls should be directed to the Wildlife Hotline at 1-866-557-1401 so we can coordinate recovery/rescue.

It is important that you please avoid going to affected areas or handling wildlife until you are part of a coordinated response effort. Thank you in advance for your assistance and for your willingness to help America’s wildlife.

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