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Florida Species Have Less to Celebrate on Earth Day

Photo: NWF report highlights the continued damage to 14 species living in the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Graphic courtesy National Wildlife Federation.
Photo: NWF report highlights the continued damage to 14 species living in the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Graphic courtesy National Wildlife Federation.
April 22, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. - Today Floridians join the rest of the country in celebrating Earth Day, but it's no picnic for the wildlife living along Florida's Gulf Coast and still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill from four years ago. A report released this month by the National Wildlife Federation highlights 14 species and the negative effects they continue to experience.

Sara Gonzalez-Rothi Kronenphal, senior policy specialist for gulf and coastal restoration for the NWF, says that, while the oil spill isn't on the front pages of the papers anymore, it should still be at the top of people's minds.

"The disaster is ongoing and the wildlife continues to be experiencing impacts, but we won't know for years, or potentially even decades, what the full extent of those impacts will be," she declared.

According to the report, more than 900 dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010, and roughly 500 dead sea turtles have been found each year for the past three years. April 20 marked the fourth anniversary of the spill, which sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The criminal and civil cases against oil company BP for the explosion and spill will likely continue for several years, but Gonzalez-Rothi Kronenphal says the wildlife affected by the man-made disaster doesn't have time to wait.

"The trial is under way and ongoing, and it's going to start up again in January of 2015, but this urgent need for restoration has gone unfulfilled and unmet," she said.

Among other species affected, oyster reproduction remains low, and according to lab tests a chemical found in oil has led to irregular heartbeats and even death in bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

Link to that report at NWF.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL