Saturday, 19 June 2010

Sea Creatures Flee Oil Spill, Gather Near Shore - AP

This is becoming more and more of a disaster. Marine scientists have found that the spill in the Gulf of Mexico is triggering some unnatural behavior in ocean life.

photo credit AP via Derick E. Hingle

Fish, dolphins, sharks and birds are all packing in close to the shores, supposedly to escape the pollution in their more natural habitats. This is bad for several reasons.

First, and most obviously, the oil is tainting their normal homes deeper into the Gulf. The fact that so many animals are hanging out close to shore means that something is amiss further out - and they're trying to get away from it.

""A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist."

Second, and maybe not so obviously, more animals in less water equals less available dissolved oxygen. Fish, sharks and many other marine creatures need the oxygen dissolved in water to breathe. The more fish in a given area, the less oxygen there is to share amongst them. Think of it as being sealed in an air-tight room with thousands of other people. There's only so much air to go around.

Third, the animals that are being seen now are trapped between the oil slick and the shore. They can't get out in either direction. Eventually, if something is not done, all of these marine creatures that are trying to race to safety will be covered in oncoming oil.

"Their ability to avoid it may be limited in the long term, especially if in near-shore refuges they're crowding in close to shore, and oil continues to come in. At some point they'll get trapped," Crowder said. "It could lead to die-offs."

Full article here (AP)

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