Animals in the Gulf “Horribly Deformed” After BP Oil Spill

by Sarah Rae on April 19, 2012

Deformed Gulf shrimp

Crabs with holes in their shells in Port Sulfur, shrimp with no eyes in Barataria Bay (pictured in this previous post), shrimp with oiled gills, fish missing eye sockets, under-developed blue crabs missing claws, and fish without covers over their gills, some with lesions, others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills. Despite alarming evidence from scientists and commercial fishermen on the Gulf coast that the BP oil spill and their dispersants are harming the wildlife, the FDA and EPA have no comment.

The real fall-out from the BP oil spill is only now being reported. We had to follow a trail of breadcrumbs for this breaking news, from Popular Science to BoingBoing to…Al Jazeera. Yes, Al Jazeera broke the story from Louisiana State University’s Dr. Jim Cowan of the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. ”The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr. Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

Dr. Cowan first learned about fish with lesions and sores in November of 2011. Seafood in the Gulf of Mexico that was exposed to the BP spill are showing signs of physical defects and giving birth to deformed offspring.

“At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,”said commercial fisherperson Tracy Kuhns in Barataria showed Al Jazeera some eyeless shrimp. ”Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets,” she added. And it’s not just near the Louisiana shoreline. ”Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” she said, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full-grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.”

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, said she has found crabs “with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they’ve been dead for a week.”

Third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi Keath Ladner, told Al Jazeera, ”I’ve seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the white shrimp have been wiped out,” Ladner told Al Jazeera. “The shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday.”

April 20, 2010, the BP Deep Water Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. 4.9 million gallons of oil were released and BP used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to sink the oil. ”The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” said Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor . “It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.” Mass deaths including everything from birds to dolphins continue along the coast.

A statement released by BP from April 10, 2012, says that the seafood in the Gulf is “as safe to eat now as it was before the accident.” It echoes the claims by oil and gas companies that the water contaminated by fracking is “safe to drink.” Like those residents in Frackland, people on the Gulf Coast are left thinking: “If it’s so safe, let’s see them eat it.” While seafood as an industry is the lifeblood of Louisiana’s economy like many others in the region, it’s also called the Sportman’s Paradise. Just like the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill, the extent to which that Paradise will survive the BP spill will take years to surface.

Featured Image Source WildSingapore – Example of the effect an oil spill can have on sea life.

Sarah Rae

Sarah Rae is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She has an MFA in writing and MA in psychology. Follow her on Twitter below or read more at
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