How the Oil Spill Might Benefit Gulf Marine Animals

Almost two weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed a ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf region for 10 days due to the BP Oil Spill. Since then, the NOAA has increased the time of the ban until May 17 and has expanded the boundary of the closed fishing. Currently, the area represents around 7% of the waters in the Gulf. While the oil spill is an environmental tragedy, it may help to repopulate the Gulf and put more pressure on oil companies.

While commercial fishing has always been an environmental issue, it remained in the backburner until now. One of the major issues of commercial fishing is the actual method to catch fish via bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is used for deeper parts of oceans to catch very specific types of marine life. A large weighted net is dragged across the ocean floor in order to catch everything in the net’s path. Dragging these nets across the floor stirs up sediment and destroys many reef habitats. These nets are about the size of a soccer field and while they are used to catch specific types of fish, around 50% of what is caught in the net is thrown back into the ocean, many injured or dead [Source: Gulf Coast Preserve]. While the NOAA has banned bottom trawling in certain places (mainly the Pacific), locations like the Gulf of Mexico are still open to tens of thousands of commercial fishers, with Louisiana supplying about one third of the US seafood supply, second largest next to Alaska. According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), there are about 50% more boats than needed to supply seafood to the US, leading to bleak results in the US. A 2007 NOAA report stated that 24 percent of 190 monitored fish stocks were still categorized as overfished, and another 17 percent were deemed subject to overfishing. With help from the government, the Magnuson-Stevens Act was drafted and the NOAA stated that they will halt overfishing in 2010 by enforcing annual catch limits and making sure fishers follow scientific advice in fishery management decisions [Source: NOAA]. The organization has received support from the Obama administration to draft plans for a new ocean policy and marine planning system.

Despite the work from the NOAA and from the government, the Gulf of Mexico contains at least 20,000 licensed bottom trawlers and a multibillion dollar industry [Source: Reuters]. The recent oil spill and banned areas have affected business as many fisherman in the Gulf have no option except to wait for the ban to be lifted and/or help with the oil spill cleanup if possible, though only about 23% of the shrimping areas have been closed off to fishing. Still, many people are taking a “Better safe than sorry” stance when buying seafood since chemicals ingested by marine animals affect those ingesting the fish. But it isn’t just the spill that is harming these fish, it’s also the cleanup. The use of dispersing agents contains numerous harmful chemicals including 2-butoxyethanol, which causes headaches, vomiting reproductive problems in humans when exposed to high doses. While dispersal is the most effective way to clean an oil spill, BP has already used up a third of the world’s supply, with the leak growing increasingly larger [Source: Pro Publica]. threatened wildlife populations, like the Blue Fin Tuna, also use the gulf as spawning grounds. While the oil affects adult fish, the larvae of the fish are especially sensitive to toxins and chemicals. Cleaning up the oil spill might not take a long time, however the effects of the spill and cleanup are far-reaching.

While the environmental consequences are staggering, there could also be some benefits to the gulf. Should the ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf continue for the duration of the cleanup and/or longer, the fish and shrimp population may increase. Thomas Shirley, of Texas A&M, along with other professors and scientists have begun viewing the spill as an opportunity for conservation and replenishing the fish supply. With all the bottom trawling and ever sky-rocketing demand for fresh fish, the fish population and diversity have drastically reduced. While the oil is another stressor on the marine habitat and animals, Daniel Pauly, a professor athe the Fisheries Institute are the University of British Columbia states, ” It is possible that a massive rebound of the fish population will occur because we are not fishing them. If the fishing is discontinued for a month or two, or a season, we may see massive changes in the Gulf” [Source: On Earth].

While the environmental effects of the oil spill are devastating, it has forced changes in the government as well. Chris Oynes, head of the oil and drilling program, announced that he would retire by June 2010 [Source: Huffington Post]. Drilling in the gulf has also been indefinitely banned, and many future drilling ventures, such as the one Shell planned in the Arctic, are beginning to see much stronger opposition [Source: Associated Press]. In the wake of such disaster, the horror and public outcry might force oil companies and governments to restrategize for a greener future.

Jasmine Greene


ANA MARIJA R4 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Is it true?

Luis J.
Luis Miguel J7 years ago

with all that i saw and hewared about the politics, law, i dont hinlk its change, we need to do somthing to big to the powerfull people undersatand what is the true

Andrea M.
Andrea M7 years ago

I seriously doubt that with less fishing going on due to the oil spill, there will be a lot more fish. That's just a cover up.

Kirri N.
Colleen B7 years ago

Please watch the YouTube video explaining facts about Halliburton, also Goldman Sachs bank (major BP shareholder), in relation to this disaster. Evidence points strongly towards the planned rupturing of the huge and highly volatile methane gas deposit at this site, in order to cause a runaway disaster. This is Adrian Salbuchi, a geo-political economics analyst -- The Well From Hell.

Claudia M.
Claudia Montoya7 years ago

Clean Water Act, time to put REAL pressure on Mr. Obama:

(A) If a discharge, or a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance from a vessel, offshore facility, or onshore facility is of such a ... See Moresize or character as to be a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the President shall direct all Federal, State, and private actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of the discharge.
(B) In carrying out this paragraph, the President may, without regard to any other provision of law governing contracting procedures or employment of personnel by the Federal Government--
(i) remove or arrange for the removal of the discharge, or mitigate or prevent the substantial threat of the discharge; and
(ii) remove and, if necessary, destroy a vessel discharging, or threatening to discharge, by whatever means are available.
(3) Actions in accordance with National Contingency Plan.
(A) Each Federal agency, State, owner or operator, or other person participating in efforts under this subsection shall act in accordance with the National Contingency Plan or as directed by the President.

Michael B.
Michael B.7 years ago

How is this in any God giving right good for marine life...Absolute BULLSHIT.

Antoinette Reyes
Antoinette R7 years ago

I did not know that in this day and age that is how our people fish. It is a shame. Before they came to the Americas they claimed the rivers to have more fish then water numbering in the billions, after three years of exporting all those fish we continue to over-fish our seas. Shame

Daylight Chapon
Lisa Kiran7 years ago

Awareness will increase but humans have very short attention & memory spans while deceit reigns in government and money rules our lives instead of the well-being of our precious planet.
While human logic is in reverse order for most world leaders ie the economy is more important than the environment, we will never capitalize on the destruction of BP and Valdez. Wasn't Valdez already enough 20 years ago?

Car accidents happen all the time, they are deadly, yet humans continue to drive.

Mervi R.
Mervi R7 years ago

Don´t think there is anything positive about this!