Florida experts talk impacts 10 years after BP oil spill in the Gulf

Many of us remember where we were when we first learned about the BP oil spill a decade ago. Since then, researchers have studied the long-term effects of the spill on the Gulf and our wildlife.

We spoke to Florida researchers at USF and a local shrimper about then and now since the Deepwater Horizon industrial disaster on the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Trico Shrimp Company on Fort Myers Beach knows all too well about the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“People that we were selling to didn’t want to buy anything from the Gulf,” said Dennis Henderson, the co-owner of Trico Shrimp Co.

It hit the northern Gulf of Mexico particularly hard.

“For 30 years, we were up there fishing,” Henderson said. “And some of the boats would make their whole living from up there, and we haven’t been able to do that in the last 10 years.”

USF scientists have researched the marine ecosystem since the spill.

“In three or four months, the waters were clean, but the sediments were still contaminated,” said Dr. David Hollander a USF professor with a Ph.D. in natural sciences.

Hollander means they found crude oil on the bottom of the Gulf.

“From the Gulf-wide study, we found that, every fish we analyzed, over 2,500 fish had residues of oil,” said Dr. Erin Pulster, a USF scientific researcher with a PH.D. in toxicology and risk assessment.

“Some of these animals were born before Deepwater, and they’re carrying that signal, right,” Dr. Steve Murawski, a USF professor with a Ph.D. in fisheries and wildlife biology. “And so the real question is what would happen to generations born after Deepwater Horizon?”

And while researchers have learned a lot, there remain some unknowns, such as long-term impact.

“There’s an open question even to this day whether or not that dispersant injected in the well head did any good,” Murawski said.

One of the researchers says seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat, since toxins are found in the liver of the fish, which people do not typically eat. As for the flesh, there are trace levels well below FDA recommendations.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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