Scientists surveying the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico said coral reefs near the BP spill site were almost certainly dying from exposure to toxic substances.
The dead and dying coral reefs were discovered Tuesday by “scientists aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel using a submersible robot equipped with cameras and sampling tools,” reported The New York Times.
Both BP’s scientists and government officials have insisted for months that the vast majority of the 206 million gallons of oil released by the disaster evaporated, dissolved, or was dispersed, either naturally or “as the result of operations,” into small droplets (Reuters).
But environmental organizations and Gulf Coast residents have always had their doubts.
For many, the discovery of dead coral is the first piece of evidence to directly link the BP oil spill to long-term, irreversible damage in the Gulf.
So far, the goverment is playing it cool with regard to this new damaging evidence.
“Given the toxic nature of oil and the unprecedented amount of oil spilled, it would be surprising if we did not find damage,” said Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This is precisely why we continue to actively monitor and evaluate the impact of the spill in the gulf.”
Dr. Charles Fisher, the lead scientist on the Gulf expedition, called the discovery “a smoking gun” and said that it was highly unlikely the coral was damaged by natural oil seepage from the ocean floor.
“We have never seen anything like this at any of the deep coral sites that we’ve been to,” Dr. Fisher told the NYT. “And we’ve been to quite a lot of them.”
Image Credit: Flickr - prillfish