The most familiar victims of the oil spill are the ones with faces: birds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales.
But as the New York Times reports today, there are at least three extensive deep-sea coral reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf. And coral reefs canâ€™t swim or fly away from the plumes of partly dispersed oil spreading in the deep sea.
Both oil and dispersants are toxic to corals and have been found to impede the ability of corals to grow and reproduce, and the effects are amplified when they are mixed, which may be the case with these plumes.
Itâ€™s unknown exactly how sensitive deep-sea corals are to oil and dispersants, though as Oceanaâ€™s Pacific science director Jeffrey Short told the Times, â€śIt might be locally catastrophic, particularly if thereâ€™s an oxygen-depleted mass that develops.â€ť
As BP prepares its â€śtop killâ€ť maneuver to stanch the Deepwater Horizonâ€™s leak, oil continues to hit Louisianaâ€™s wetlands and beaches, fouling sensitive habitats and marine life.
Officials reported yesterday that more than 300 sea birds, nearly 200 sea turtles and 19 dolphins have been found dead along the U.S. Gulf Coast since the spill started more than a month ago.
As a result, the images coming out of the gulf are increasingly heartbreaking, like these photos of the spill and its victims from Boston.com.
Oceana pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz was on the Diane Rehm show this morning for a second time since the spill discussing the long-term environmental consequences of the oil spill. Jackie was joined by Douglas Rader from the Environmental Defense Fund, Carys Louise Mitchelmore of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and William Hogarth from the University of South Florida. Have a listen here.
If you havenâ€™t already, help us reach our goal of 500,000 petition signatures: tell Obama and Congress to stop offshore drilling today, and spread the word.
A few oil spill updates for you today:
BPâ€™s new video of the gusher
Though BP has been celebrating the first successful attempt to redirect oil to a tanker using a siphon, Senator Bill Nelson posted new BP footage that tells a different story. And disturbingly, reports are emerging that BP has been preventing journalists from documenting the spill.
There is anger and bewilderment in New Orleans. Five years after Katrina comes the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, which continues to gush 210,000 gallons of oil into the gulf every day.
Last Saturdayâ€™s rally, organized by the Sierra Club with the support of Oceana as well as local groups such as the Gulf Restoration Network, drew several hundred supporters to Lafayette Square Park with the mantra, â€śClean It Up!â€ť
Speakers included local fishermen, wildlife experts, and politicians. The message to BP and the federal government was clear: cap the spill, clean it up, and never let it happen again.
While oil-covered birds have become an emblematic image of catastrophic oil spills, sea birds arenâ€™t the only ones affected. Oil is extremely toxic to all wildlife, and the toxic effects on marine life begins as soon as the oil hits the water.
Here are 10 examples of how marine life may be affected by the Gulf spill in the coming days, weeks and years
A few days ago, more than 20 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles washed up on Mississippiâ€™s shores. While there is no evidence the deaths are linked to the oil spill, the incident may be merely foreshadowing whatâ€™s to come for sea turtles in the Gulf.
Sea turtles come to the surface to breathe, and NOAA reports that between 30 and 50 sea turtles (species unknown) were seen swimming yesterday in or near the oil spill. It may be only a matter of time until we see oiled turtles stranded on beaches as well.
Kempâ€™s ridleys, the smallest and most threatened sea turtle in the world, typically spend their entire lives in the Gulf of Mexico, nesting only on beaches in Mexico and southern Texas, giving them the name the â€śGulfâ€™s Sea Turtleâ€ť. And right now is the peak migration season for the turtles as they return to their nesting grounds.
It just keeps getting worse.
A NOAA scientist has concluded that oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, five times the initial 1,000 per-day estimate. And a third leak was discovered yesterday afternoon.
If the estimates are correct, the spill, which is nearly the size of Jamaica, could match or exceed the 11 million gallons spilt from the Exxon Valdez within two months -- becoming the largest oil spill in U.S. history.