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Two Years After Gulf Disaster: “The Spill Is Not Over”

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012   

AUSTIN, Texas - Two years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are just beginning to gauge its long-term impact, according to a just-released National Wildlife Federation report.

While coastal areas in Texas and other Gulf states may appear relatively normal on the surface, the study finds evidence of lasting, widespread harm to species and ecosystems. David Muth, the federation's coastal Louisiana state director, says even clean-up and oil dispersal efforts have done their share of damage since the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

"There is no fix for an oil spill, no happy ending. There is nothing anyone can do once it's spilled. We simply have very little information about what the long-term sub-lethal effects are on the whole system."

The overall health of wildlife habitats and wetlands has been declining during the past century, Muth says, and the spill has accelerated that decline. Effective long-term Gulf restoration, he adds, would involve re-engineering the lower Mississippi River so that less water is diverted from the delta.

The report says only a small percentage of wildlife affected by the spill is detectable.

Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, has been a hunting and fishing guide for 31 years and is vice-president of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association. He says areas that were rife with birds, shrimp, crabs, oysters, fish and sea turtles before the spill now are in a large "dead zone" - and that's slowing the bounce-back of the tourism and restaurant industries.

"It's pretty disheartening to watch all this habitat disappear. That oil started putting me out of business right away. And now they say it's over. 'The oil spill is over.' Well, it's far from over. It's going to have long-lasting effects."

Lambert is urging Congress to pass the "Restore Act" - which has gotten bipartisan support but currently is stalled - in order to ensure the majority of oil-industry fines from the spill are used for restoration and research efforts along the coast.

"We need everyone to come on board and get Congress to bring those funds - instead of going into the general fund in the Treasury - to come back to the coastal states and start doing some of this restoration work."

The number of ailing, stranded dolphins in the Gulf has increased by four times since the spill. At the top of the food chain, dolphins are an important indicator of ecosystem health, according to the report.

The report is online at nwf.org.


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