Tiny seahorse caught in big oilspill

From Emma:

The world’s smallest seahorse is now being threatened by the world’s largest accidental marine oil spill.

The BP oil spill began with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April this year and led to the release of almost 5 million barrels of crude oil.  The effect of the spill on local wildlife is still being felt. The immediate effect was obvious on seabirds that became coated in the crude oil which destroyed their plumage and was poisonous if ingested.

Now the effort to combat the spill may be bringing its own problems. By burning off oil caught in seagrass mats, those trying to combat the spill are now destroying the habitat of the dwarf seahorse; Hippocampus zosterae.

Dr. Heather Masonjones, a seahorse biologist at the University of Tampa, says: “It’s absolutely critical that measures be taken to preserve the seagrass mats and beds during this vulnerable time.” The alternative is to use “booms in the clean-up to isolate the oil slicks. These can be skimmed, left to evaporate, or treated with biological agents like fertilisers, which promote the growth of micro-organisms that biodegrade oil.”

BP have now admitted that they missed critical warning signs before the explosion, but they are equally happy to blame other companies involved including Halliburton who chose the cement. Are they just shifting the blame? Does this new information give clues on what can be changed to prevent future disasters? And is it all too little too late? Especially for this tiny seahorse.

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About Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website: http://rebeccanesbit.com/
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4 Responses to Tiny seahorse caught in big oilspill

  1. Tom Monkhouse says:

    Next, BP introduce fertilisers that promote the growth of micro-organisms that biodegrade oil… and dwarf seahorses.

    BP cannot hope to shift the blame here; it was their rig, they should have known every detail about it. So Halliburton chose the cement; did someone at BP make an executive decision to just take their word for it and NOT check it was compatible with the situation? All they are doing by naming other companies is dragging them down a notch or two alongside. Which is a good thing.

    Especially in something so financially expensive and profitable, economically vital and ecologically dangerous as an offshore oil rig. The trouble they face now is having such staggering incompetence revealed in a publicly listed company.

  2. EmmaLousieWright says:

    Well it looks like the well has finally been sealed:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/11365122

    But the damage has already been done.

    As for BP trying to shift the blame… They did admit that they were responsible for missed warning signs but their report went on to blame just about anyone and everyone they could find:

    Transocean (rig’s owner): Failed to test the blowout preventer’s intervention systems before it was deployed.

    Halliburton (cement provider): could have carried out better testing to reveal flaws in the cement provided.

    The crew: distracted by end of well activities and failed to carry out important monitoring. Poured seawater rather than heavy drilling mud into the well.

    …everything added up to lead to the explosion and subsequent spill.

    I don’t think they’re trying to shift the blame with this report so much as track down all the interlinking factors that were responsible. The disaster isn’t the fault of a single company or organisation.

  3. How much are we to blame, and the legislation that allowed them to be drilling there?

  4. EmmaLousieWright says:

    Apparently it could be worse than that… I found an article about a lawsuit filed in May which states that the oil companies were excused of rules requiring them to submit documentation detailing their plans for dealing with blowouts and “worst-case scenario” oil spills in areas south of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama!

    At the minute there is a moratorium on deep water drilling in the area but this expires at the end of November…

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