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Scientists Debate Real Impact of Oil Spill

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 02 Dec 2010 09:43am | comments

Controversy continues over what really happened to the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, and just how negative the impacts are. But as MPB’s Phoebe Judge reports, many scientists believe it is still just too early to tell.

Each year the Bays and Bayous Symposium put on by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium focuses on the health of the Gulf of Mexico. So understandably the main focus of conversation at this year’s event held in Mobile was the impacts for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. There has been much speculation over the past months about just what kind of impact that spill has had on the Gulf Coast ecosystem. But Steve Sempier, deputy director for the Sea Grant Consortium says that speculation only causes more problems,

“And we need to base our decisions and observations on facts and data unfortunately that is not something that can be collected in that short time period.”

One of the main questions still lingering is whether there is still residue left over from the spill located on the ocean’s floor or in the water column.

“And it is totally believable that given the volumes that has been talked about in the press that there is bound to be material left behind as a result of this accident. Part number two of the question is does it matter.”

John Valentine is a scientist with the Dauphin Island Sea lab. Valentine says there just isn’t enough scientific information yet to know, but he was shocked to find through his own research on fish populations that the numbers of fish had in some cases tripled since the oil spill began,

“Right. They are all going up, the question is is that because the government stopped fishing in the coastal environment, or is that because all of these fish left coastal Louisiana and that is not known.”

Which he says could lead to the conclusion that the spill could be less catastrophic then once thought. But still it seems just too early to tell what the real impacts will be. BP has pledged $500 million dollars to the scientific community to help figure it out.

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