Eyeless Shrimp and the BP Oil Spill

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Down along the Gulf coast, the beaches look cleaner, the birds less tar-covered, but the longterm consequences of the BP oil spill are leaving their mark under the ocean's surface. Scientists continue to be shocked at what they're pulling up from the area around the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 and coated thousands of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. It happened almost exactly two years ago, and as much good news as you read about the return of tourism and the spending of BP's money to help the recovery efforts, some major problems remain.

We're most concerned about the eyeless shrimp. Scott Eustis from the Gulf Restoration Network recently showed Al Jazeera English's Dahr Jamail some of those shrimp. It's easy to see what's wrong with them: They have no eyes! In other parts of the Gulf, fisherman are finding fish covered in black lesions and even dead dolphins floating in the water. Eyeless shrimp or killifish covered in oil-colored spots serve as cringeworthy reminders of how even a small amount of leftover contaminant can do huge amounts of damage to local lifeforms.

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But you don't even have to eat mutant fish to be affected by the spill. A new report by the non-BP-funded Surfrider Foundation shows that humans swimming in the Gulf are soaking up the chemical that BP used to disperse the oil right after the spill. While they look normal in daylight, under a UV light, the dispersant shows up as bright white globs. (See the image from the Surfrider Foundation to the left.) 

The full scale of this problem will likely not be known for years. There's no reversing what happened on April 20, 2010, but the Obama administration is still busy pointing fingers. The presidential commission that investigated the spill recently gave Congress a "D" for not doing enough soon enough after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. William K. Reilly, co-chair of the commission and a former EPA administrator  told The Washington Post that Congress had been "very partisan and negative" about safety reforms after the disaster. Reilly also praised BP for their response, saying that they have "significantly improved their game" since the spill.

And how about the government? Well, according to Al Jazeera's report, they're not doing a thing to address the mutant fish problem in the Gulf. Maybe they think it's a small matter. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.