Alarming New Study Documents BP Oil’s Impact on Gulf Ecosystem

Study shows effect of BP oil on the Gulf killifish

09-26-2011 // Miles Grant
Gulf killifish, cocahoe minnow 219x219

A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents the effect of BP oil on the Gulf killifish. The minnow-like wetlands resident, also known as bull minnow or cacahoe, is a critical part of the Gulf’s food chain and was chosen for study by a team of researchers because of its abundance and sensitivity to any effects of toxic pollution. The study finds that oil exposure has altered the killifish’s cellular function in ways that are known to be predictive of developmental abnormalities, decreased hatching success, and decreased embryo and larval survival.

Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, said today:

“This study is alarming because similar health effects seen in fish, sea otters, and harlequin ducks following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska were predictive of population impacts, from decline to outright collapse. While up to 210 million gallons of oil were involved in the Gulf oil disaster, the study is a reminder that even small amounts of oil can have a large and lasting impact on individual fish and wildlife. Wherever oil continues to be found in the Gulf, it should be removed if doing so won’t cause more environmental harm than good.

“The Gulf killifish provides us with a reminder that oil’s impacts on wildlife can’t be separated from its impacts on people. Not only are Gulf killifish a food source for sport fish like redfish and speckled trout, but killifish eat mosquitoes, helping to keep the pest population in check.

“The study is also a reminder that Congress has yet to act to protect the Gulf’s people and wildlife by passing comprehensive response legislation. Action is urgently needed, both to improve oil and gas drilling safety regulations so this doesn’t happen again, and to dedicate fines and penalties to Gulf Coast restoration.”

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