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Gulf of Mexico Blue Crabs and Shrimp Focus of Savannah, Ga., Study

Science & Tech  (tags: AnimalWelfare, endangered, conservation, environment, ethics, habitat, protection, wildlife, destruction, ecosystems, energy, oceans, habitatdestruction, nature, pollution, science, research, water, scientists, study, science, research, safety, investigat )

- 1916 days ago -
The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the impetus behind a research project at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Ga., that will analyze the effects of spilled oil on blue crabs and grass shrimp. The researchers will examine the

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JL A (282)
Thursday December 20, 2012, 12:17 pm
Gulf of Mexico blue crabs and shrimp focus of Savannah, Ga., study
Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, | The Times-Picayune By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, | The Times-Picayune
on December 11, 2012 at 6:07 PM, updated December 11, 2012 at 8:04 PM


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The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the impetus behind a research project at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Ga., that will analyze the effects of spilled oil on blue crabs and grass shrimp. The researchers will examine the species growth under various conditions to see if the genes that regulate molting may have been affected.

The researchers also will send tissue samples, primarily from the shrimp and crab’s endocrine organs, to a researcher at the Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah to look for physiological or pathological changes. The study is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although grass shrimp are not typically harvested as a commercial product, they are abundant in Gulf of Mexico salt marshes and estuaries, and are an important food source for many fish. Blue crabs are also a food source for many fish in addition to being a valuable commercial catch.

A summary of the study by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography states that the scientists selected grass shrimp and blue crabs because of their importance in the marine food chain.

Since the 2010 oil spill, fishers and consumers have been concerned about the status of local fisheries, but, in terms of consumption, federal and state scientists have made clear that local seafood is safe to eat. Still, scientists continue to examine any possible long-term effects to species' growth and reproduction rates.
blue-crab.jpg In 2010, a fisherman pulls a blue crab off his net in Slidell. | The Times-Picayune archive

Louisiana’s blue crab fishery typically comprises nearly 30 percent of the annual U.S. blue crab catch with its 3,000 blue crab commercial fishers averaging about 44 million pounds of crab annually.

In 2011, Louisiana blue crab landings garnered more money than any other year in the past decade except 2009. That’s despite slightly less catch.

Louisiana crabbers garnered 43.7 million pounds compared with the previous decade’s average of 44.3 million pounds, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data.

But fishers in Louisiana brought in about $36.2 million from their crab sales at the dock. That’s more than any other year since 2001, except for 2009, when Louisiana crabbers earned $36.7 million at the dock.

The 10-year annual average for Louisiana crab sales at the dock is $31.9 million, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service data.

Following closely behind Maryland, Louisiana crabbers caught the second-most hard blue crabs in the nation.

In terms of other recent assessments of blue crab, scientists largely have found no long-term effects from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

For example, to receive its recent designation as a “certified sustainable fishery,’’ Louisiana blue crabs went through a review by the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable certification that noted “laboratory experiments, testing the effects of various contaminants on blue crabs at different life stages, indicate that, under controlled conditions, blue crab juveniles were extremely tolerant to long-term petroleum aromatic hydrocarbon exposure.”

The Louisiana blue crab fishery was the third crab fishery in the United States, and the fourth worldwide, to receive the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable certification.

Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory who is working on the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography project, previously has told | The Times-Picayune that if there were any effect on the crab population from the oil spill, it probably would be quite small compared with the changes in the Gulf crab population over time from global climate changes that have raised salinity levels and led to increased predation of the species.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography project is looking at two forms of oil: emulsified oil, and oil that has been treated with dispersant. Emulsified oil is an oil-water mixture produced by wave turbulence that forms a thicker, more viscous mixture.

Lee and his team are exposing blue crabs and shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then watching to see how that affects their molting, which is how shrimp and crab grow. The researchers are adding emulsified oil into the crabs’ tanks and feeding the crabs squid that has been contaminated by the emulsified oil. Dispersed oil droplets also are added to tanks containing crab and shrimp embryos.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography summary states that another major part of the project will be to explain the results of the study to the public, especially the fishers whose livelihood depends on a healthy marine ecosystem. Of the $500,000 grant, $80,000 is designated for the establishment and implementation of “Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation” teams in four communities along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Friday December 21, 2012, 9:13 pm
If I can prove I must have a seafood diet can I get deported to the West coast of France?

Kerrie G (118)
Saturday December 22, 2012, 1:24 am
Noted, thanks.

Robert O (12)
Saturday December 22, 2012, 1:56 am
Thank you.

JL A (282)
Saturday December 22, 2012, 6:49 am
You are welcome Kerrie and Robert

Sue Matheson (79)
Saturday December 22, 2012, 6:50 am

JL A (282)
Saturday December 22, 2012, 7:14 am
You are welcome Sue

Ruth C (87)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 7:15 am
These poor animals are going through all these problems because of human greed.

JL A (282)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 8:06 am
Sad but true Ruth.

Sergio P (65)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 8:35 pm

JL A (282)
Sunday December 23, 2012, 8:49 pm
You're welcome Sergio.

Mitchell D (104)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 12:04 pm
Noted, thanks.

JL A (282)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:50 pm
You are welcome Mitchell
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