At the time of publication, it has been roughly one month since the Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico. That explosion has resulted in millions of gallons of crude oil being expelled out of the sea floor and into the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some facts about the spill from a few weeks ago. At that time, the environmental impact the spill would have was not entirely clear. Now, it is becoming clearer and clearer everyday. The oil is spreading rapidly and animals are quickly becoming affected. In fact, it is unavoidable that they will be affected, considering that their territory is contaminated with a natural, but very toxic substance.
There are currently an estimated 2,000 barrels of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico everyday. That is the equivalent of 126,000 gallons. This amount is significantly less than the 5,000 barrels that were being expelled until just recently. The decrease is due to the siphoning efforts of the responsible company-BP. They claim that they are siphoning off 3,000 barrels a day. At this point, we have to take their word for it and hope that their claims are correct.
According to the NOAA, 45,728 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico are now off-limits to fishermen. That is roughly 19%. Amazingly, there are actually sources that site this amount with an "only" before it. Obviously, they did not get the memo that none of the Gulf of Mexico should be off-limits to fishermen due to the neglect of humans, but I digress. This area is off-limits because of the dangers that eating oil-contaminated fish pose to humans. What about the dangers that being contaminated poses to the fish or the dangers that eating contaminated fish pose to other animals?
I am no scientist, so I cannot explain to you what it is that crude oil does to living things. However, I can direct you to this article, which explains it rather confusingly, but certainly gets the point across. If you do not have the time to read the aforelinked article, then allow me to paraphrase it, crude oil contains some seriously harmful stuff and it can be extremely toxic.
With the above information in mind, it is a little disturbing that it is difficult to find any information on what is being done (if anything) to save the creatures that rely on the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, there is plenty of information on cleaning up the oil, but is there anything we can do to help the animals that are already suffering? If so, I can find nothing about it. If not, this is a sad situation, indeed. We do know that there are many, many species at risk right now and that number can increase exponentially. Nonetheless, the media focus remains on politicians playing the blame game and panicked people who live near coasts that are in danger of being affected. It is too bad that many animals in the Gulf of Mexico do not realize that they have a very good reason to panic right now.
NOAA Extends Fishing Closed Area to Portion of Loop Current as Precaution, retrieved 5/19/10, noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100518_closure.html
Robbins, Liz, Some Oil From Spill Reaches Powerful Current, retrieved 5/19/10, nytimes.com/2010/05/20/US/20spill.html