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Blog Tags: Oil Spill

BP Spill Residue Found in Minnesota Pelican Eggs

pelicans

An American white pelican sits on her nest in Minnesota. [Image via Minnesota Public Radio]

The impacts of the Deepwater Horizon are being felt in -- you guessed it -- Minnesota.

White pelicans that winter in the Gulf of Mexico and have lived in an oiled Gulf have migrated to far away places such as Minnesota to lay eggs, and the contaminants inside them have traveled as well.

Preliminary testing by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows that petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested and nearly 80 percent of the eggs contained the chemical dispersant used during the spill, called COREXIT.

The contamination of white pelican eggs is a bad sign for the developing embryos and potentially their populations. The researchers will be continuing to monitor impacts on the population for years to come, and the true impacts may not be realized for decades.

Mark Clark, a researcher helping with these studies, says, “Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts. And when things go wrong at that stage, there's usually no recovery."

The immediate loss of pelicans and other birds that were covered in oil during the spill was amazingly disheartening and graphic. But these types of sub-lethal impacts show how the next generation may be affected.

While these effects are less noticeable, they are even more concerning for the future of the population. Nearly half of all the bird species that live in the United States spend at least part of the winter in the Gulf of Mexico, and the health of the Gulf is globally significant for birds.

After the Exxon Valdez spill, more than 88% of the birds that were found dead were outside of Prince William Sound, the area immediately affected by the spill, and the number of dead birds found was only a fraction of the total killed by the spill.

The combination of those direct losses, poor reproductive success and changes in the habitat, has prevented some species from recovering, even 20 years later. Although we don’t yet know the long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill, these contaminants in eggs serve as a warning sign of things to come.

We need to make sure that BP and the other responsible parties are held accountable for the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill that have likely impacted hundreds to thousands of species.

Even more importantly we need to recognize that these contaminated eggs, and the ongoing damages to wildlife, are part of the overall problem with offshore drilling and spilling. We have much better options for energy, such as offshore wind, and we should use them.


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Less Than a Year After the Spill, Oil Leases Scheduled

oiled bird

It hasn’t yet been one year since the worst accidental oil spill in history was finally stopped, but the Interior Department announced Friday that it will open more than 20 million acres of the Western Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas exploration and development.   

Oceana’s senior campaign director Jackie Savitz’s responded to this outrageous news in the New York Times:

“Rushing this lease sale puts marine ecosystems at risk before the ink is even dry on the impacts of the BP spill,” said Jacqueline Savitz of the international conservation group Oceana. She added that the ocean energy bureau “appears to be caving to intense pressure from the oil industry to return to ‘business as usual,’ without regard for the extraordinary risks to already imperiled marine animals.” 

Reports following the Deepwater Horizon spill have highlighted the impacts on already struggling species, such as endangered sea turtles and bluefin tuna. Many commercially important fish were spawning at the time of the spill, and studies to measure the impacts have not yet been completed. Until the status of those populations is clarified, it’s impossible to determine the impacts of this lease sale, a step required prior to the sale. 

The Interior Department should not proceed with new lease sales until the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill are better understood, and until we improve our readiness to prevent and respond to major oil spills.


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What if an Oil Spill Happened in the Arctic?

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

Less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon gusher was finally sealed, oil companies are claiming they can drill safely in the Arctic Ocean, an even more fragile and forbidding environment than the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, our government seems to be suffering from amnesia, too.

This month, Shell Oil received a conditional approval from the federal government to drill four exploratory wells next summer in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The company claims that it can end a gushing spill like the Deepwater Horizon in just 43 days and clean up 90 percent of oil lost.

These claims aren’t based in historic experience and have little scientific evidence to back them up. Crews were only able to recover 10 percent of the oil escaping the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and only 8 percent of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.

The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea was in 2000 and was described as a “failure.” Mechanical systems like skimmers and booms in calm but icy conditions simply didn’t work. The technology has not improved since then. Just watch this video of a failed cleanup test:


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Blog Action Day: The (Offshore) Winds of Change

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year’s theme couldn’t be more relevant to us and all you fantastic ocean activists: water.

Water is also an especially poignant theme given the timing. Next Wednesday is the six-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill dominated the news -- and this blog -- for several months, and nobody’s sure what the long-term effects will be on gulf ecosystems.

And yet, just a few days ago, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned, and several months before the release of studies about the effects of the oil spill on the gulf.

As Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz said of the decision, “This is an incredibly disconcerting and unjustified move, that could open the door for the next great oil disaster. Oil spills are common. The question is not whether there will be another spill but when.”

But not all the news the past few months has been negative. Yes, the gulf has endured the worst environmental crisis in our nation’s history, but there are signs of hope. Momentum on offshore wind power is building, for one thing.


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Tagging Sharks in the Dry Tortugas

Two expedition updates in one day - hold on to your hats! In this one, Oceana marine scientist Elizabeth Wilson describes yesterday’s successful shark tagging adventures, including a monster nurse shark:

Today we traveled to the Dry Tortugas, a small group of islands at the end of the Florida Keys, to study sharks. On board with us is the shark team from University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, led by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag. Other members of the team on board are Lab Manager and graduate student Dominique Lazzare and Captain Curt Slonim.

We arrived in the Dry Tortugas National Park, anchored near Fort Jefferson and started surveying for sharks. We had a successful research trip where we tagged and sampled three Caribbean reef sharks and two nurse sharks. We attached identification tags to the Caribbean reef sharks and sent them back on their way. The nurse sharks were too big and feisty to bring on the boat for tagging…one was 10.5 feet long and was the biggest nurse shark any of us had ever seen. 


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Photos from the Alabama Alps

Yesterday you heard about the Latitude’s foray into the Alabama Alps. Today, photos!

Here are some of the cool creatures our deep-sea ROV captured on camera. Which one's your favorite?

Special thanks to Nautica, whose support made our use of the deep sea ROV possible!


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Oceana Divers Explore Life Under Gulf Oil Rig

In today’s update from the boat, expedition leader Xavier Pastor discusses the preparations for the next leg of the journey, and the divers’ exploration of the waters beneath one of the gulf’s myriad oil rigs.

It’s incredible to think about communities of marine life living in the shadows of oil rigs, isn’t it?

Have a burning question about our ongoing expedition in the gulf? Ask it in the comments!

Here's Xavier:

Tuesday, 9/7/10

The Latitude is like an anthill. There’s a crane working on deck to remove some of the materials that were used in the last stage of the expedition: anchors, compressors, chains, ropes, buoys...

Part of the Oceana crew is also packing their bags in order to make room for the new members of the expedition who are slowly making their way to the boat.

The frenetic activity on-board is slowed only by the heat. It’s so hot, and the humidity is so high, that even the boat’s operators have to stop and drink water to avoid dehydration.


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New Poll: 88% of Americans Want Science Before Drilling

Just in time for Secretary Salazar’s visit to the U.S. Arctic, today our colleagues in Alaska released the results of a new nationwide poll on offshore drilling. The poll, conducted by David Binder Research, shows that Americans overwhelmingly support a precautionary approach to offshore drilling. 

According to the poll, 88 percent of the American public thinks it is important for there to be a science-based approach to decision-making and for response capabilities to be in place before any drilling occurs, even if it slows the timeframe for oil drilling. 


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Long Days on Deck to Measure the Plume

The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Latitude crew. Here’s the latest from Will Race on the ongoing experiment to measure the oil plume near the Deepwater Horizon:

Morning came fast on Monday. By 6:30 am the entire crew was on deck ready to deploy the first mooring. But instead of a beautiful sunrise, we were greeted by an unnerving thunder and lighting show.

Eight was the lucky number: The eight man crew successfully deployed eight moorings. The complete process, from the preparation of anchors and lines, to deploying the anchor, marking the line, and clipping on test strips went smoothly and efficiently.

The weather calmed down after the morning storm and was key to the efficiency of the day. For the first time during this leg of the trip, the Oceana team finally had the pleasure of setting the last mooring of the day to a breathtaking sunset.

 


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Oil Spill Quote of the Day

From today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

"We've said since news first broke and the extent of the gulf tragedy became known that it was certainly going to affect how people in the United States and California view offshore oil," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association. "It's a game-changing event."


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