Are oil plumes off the coast of Waveland, Mississippi, suffocating sea life?

Sadly, it appears that Waveland, Mississippi, has become an early ground zero for the appearance of dead wildlife from the on-going BP disaster. While the vast quantities of oil that wash onto the barrier islands of Louisiana coat, poison and kill the precious biodiversity where it lays, in Waveland the sea life that once swam washes ashore.

While some of it may be naturally occurring, there’s little doubt that more of it resulted from what is probably the worst environmental disaster in America’s history.

I’ve lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 33 years. Never have I seen a sea turtle on the beach either dead or alive. Today I saw 2 dead sea turtles covered in oil just miles from my home in Waveland, MS.

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. . 47 sea turtles on average are reported stranded along the upper Gulf Coast each May, based on a five-year average, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday. The range is from 15 to 80 on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in May each year.

But this month there have been 77 dead in Mississippi alone, said Moby Solangi with the Institute of Marine Mammals Studies in Gulfport. Most of these are the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle . .

“These are the only three we’ve seen alive in the past three weeks,” Solangi said.

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Came across these shocking images amongst some viewer submitted Gulf of Mexico oil spill photos on the New York Times website. The two photos show thousands of little fish washed up dead in Waveland, Mississippi. The photos are credited to Sabrina Bradford.

According to first hand accounts oil has been spotted washing up in Waveland. One person writes on the Gulf Oil Spill Tracker that,”We walked along the beach just outside of the Silver Slipper Casino area and saw many dead fish, 2 cats and at least 5 trout and a quite large fish we could not identify. In addition we saw upwards of 20 dead baby crabs spread out along the beach. We were not able to locate any tar balls or residues of any type.”

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The increase in dead sea animals ashore along with the lack of an obvious cause of death, like their being coated with toxic tar, may point to a less obvious but troubling culprit: suffocation by oil. Specifically, oxygen starvation caused by being enveloped in oil plumes.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times underscored the possibility. Because the oil originates deep undersea and because BP has aggressively used hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersant to prevent the oil from coating the Gulf’s surface (and then being photographed, some say), the millions of gallons of oil stay submerged as tiny droplets that loosely aggregate into large plumes.

The scientific work detailed in the article showed:
1). The plumes exist.
2). They are massive.
3). They are so oxygen-poor that they are capable of killing sea life in huge quantities.

Scientists Build Case for Undersea Plumes
Published: May 28, 2010

. . The water samples they pulled up suggested that any oil in the plumes was highly diffuse — not even visible to the naked eye. But when several gallons of the water were forced through a fine filter, tiny black oil droplets appeared.

Even in that diffuse form, the plumes were having a drastic impact on the chemistry of the ocean, with dissolved oxygen levels plunging as each plume drifted through the sea.

That, Dr. Joye said, was most likely because bacteria were ramping up to consume the oil and gas — a good thing, over all, but it was creating a heavy demand for oxygen and other nutrients. Aside from the toxic effect of the oil, the declining oxygen was a potential threat to sea life. Slowly, as the Walton Smith and other boats worked the gulf this past week, the weird physics of a deep-water well blowout came into better focus.

We may be yet unaware of the oil’s terrible impact upon our ecosystems because it’s most evident within these lethal oxygen-less clouds, beneath the surface of the Gulf where nobody can detect it. No one outside a few hard-working scientists and their instruments . .


6 thoughts Are oil plumes off the coast of Waveland, Mississippi, suffocating sea life?

  1. avatar Kathy says:

    The whole problem will be extremely disastrous for the environment and with the economy in many clashing ways. This problem should have been retricted but everyone once in a while these accidents occur. These companies should be held responsible for this unfortunate catastrophe.

  2. avatar Amy says:

    Nice post. I like your blog.

  3. I get more and more furiated with every bird I see covered in oil. I hope this containment cap works. This is just terrible.

  4. BP, Hayward, and the MMS are crooks and liars. I don’t believe a single word that comes out of Haywards mouth. They better make this right.

  5. avatar dentist frankfort says:

    This oil spill is really destroying too much of our gulf, I feel terrible for New orleans

  6. I can’t handle any more dead marine mammals and fish. This is what happens when nobody watches what corporations are up to. They have no humanistic or ecological mission statement, only money, money, money!

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