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.