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Gulf oil spill: Wildlife officials predict widespread impact on birds, food web

Biologists and other wildlife experts said Friday that the Gulf of Mexico oil leak was an "unprecedented" event in terms of its potential impact on animals and habitats, and warned that the absence of oil-slicked birds in large numbers doesn't mean that the impact won't be severe.

"We have seen some wildlife that have been impacted -- oiled birds, for example," said Ralph Morganweck, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service senior scientist. "But no one should believe that because we haven't recovered thousands of oiled wildlife to date that the impact may not be widespread."

Morganweck was one of a number of federal wildlife officials who spoke at a Friday news conference about the  unknowns that scientists are facing. For one, much of the wildlife that will die will do so far from shore, never washing up and never being accounted for.

Additionally, they said, most studies of the effect of oil on wildlife has focused on tanker spills, like the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 off the coast of Alaska. This release of oil has not abated and is flowing from a source that is a mile underwater and about 50 miles from land.

 "This one's coming in a way that has a lot of us working as hard as we can to understand what's going to be the larger impact ... it's a very difficult one," said Roger Helm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contaminants division chief.

 A key concern, scientists said, is the extended, long-term effects to the "food webs" that bind large and small creatures in the complex gulf ecosystem.

 "That includes the plants and animals that are tied together in their food chain and habitat, so that if one species is damaged in high numbers, we'd expect others to suffer too," said Glenn Plumb, the chief of Fish and Wildlife for Yellowstone National Park, and one of the experts relocated to the gulf.

The number of animals recovered or treated thus far has been relatively small. About 66 birds have been recovered. Most of them were dead, but a few have been found alive and treated at rehabilitation centers that have been set up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

 Since April 30, 18 dead dolphins have been found on or near shore, as well as 183 sea turtles. Oil was not found on the outside of these animals, although three oil-slicked turtles were found farther out to sea. In some of these cases, experts are still testing the animals to determine that oil played a role in their demise.

-- Richard Fausset, reporting from Atlanta

Comments () | Archives (9)

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Hi Nancy Kolger,
Thats a great info from u.. can u please send me some more info if u have on the use of LOC in Valdez oil mishap ?

Many thanks,

Very helpful! : )

Hasn't anyone ever heard of the AmWay Corporation located in Michigan and now has subsidaries all over the World selling since in the 1950's Environmental Saving Cleaning Products. My late husband and I in about the mid 60's were Amway Distributors for a few years and their products are fabulous and American Made! They have a grease desolver Named LOC and they sell it by the barrel full if needed. It was used when the Valdiz oil mishap occurred in the 1980's to help clean the beaches, shoreline, animals, birds, vegetation. Why doesn't someone with authority check into this from Amway??

otbricki you'd be surprised to learn just how alive the sea is at for many miles of depth. This oil spill will affect the entire planet as birds and marine life migrate to and from the gulf area from around the planet.

And in one view of the leak, I saw a fish swim by. How exactly do you decide what amount of life equals "not much?"

The surface oil is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a serious need for journalist to at least have some kind of education so that they can figure these out themselves. The dispersant being used at the wellhead by BP is making sure that you don't see the "rest" of the oil . Most of it is in the water column. to my children.

I think the dead non-oiled animals found on the beach commited suicide

I feel sorry for the marine life that is getting the "LICK" from this oil spill.

BP will be found guilty of violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act,

Residents have to ask about the carconigens in the crude oil and #6 oil .

How likely are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in crude oil  to cause cancer?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that some PAHs may reasonably be expected to be carcinogens.

Some people who have breathed or touched mixtures of PAHs and other chemicals for long periods of time have developed cancer. Some PAHs have caused cancer in laboratory animals when they breathed air containing them (lung cancer), ingested them in food (stomach cancer), or had them applied to their skin (skin cancer).

Your incident command will pass out the MSDS ,Material Safety Data Sheet, in affected areas .

How do we know ?

On April 27, 2003, eight years ago the Bouchard Barge B-120 hit an obstacle in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts creating a 12-foot rupture in its hull and discharging an estimated 100,000 gallons of No. 6 oil. The oil is known to have affected an estimated 90 miles of shoreline, killing 450 numerous bird species the day it happen. Not one new law has been passed to protect us from the oil companies to this day!

Rember document everything with a camera with film .

These guys don't have a clue. 66 dead birds is not a lot. Let's face it there is not much life a mile down and with these dispersers breaking up the oil before it gets to the surface and into the sensitive wetlands there isn't going to be the huge cataclysm that everyone is so worried about.

In other words: Don't get your panties in a twist.


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