NEW ORLEANS – Eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores and other mutant creatures found in the Gulf of Mexico are raising concerns over lingering effects of the BP oil spill.
On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf, in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Two years later, scientists and commercial fishers alike are finding shrimp, crab and fish that they believe have been deformed by the chemicals unleashed in the spill, according to an extensive report by Al Jazeera English.
"At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these," Tracy Kuhns, a commercial fisher from Barataria, La., told Al Jazeera, showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp.
Darla Rooks, another lifelong fisher from Port Sulfur, La., told the broadcaster she was seeing "eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills."
Rooks added that she had never seen such deformities in Gulf waters in her life -- a refrain common to most fishers featured in the report -- and said her seafood catch last year was "ten percent what it normally is."
A survey led by the University of South Florida after the spill found that between two and five percent of fish in the Gulf now have skin lesions or sores, compared to data from before the spill, when just one-tenth of one percent of fish had any growths or sores.
Scientists blamed the mutations on the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) released from the spill's submerged oil as well as the two million gallons of the dispersant Corexit that BP used in an attempt to clean up the spill.
"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," Riki Ott, a toxicologist and marine biologist explained to Al Jazeera. "It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known."
BP has maintained that Gulf seafood is safe, saying in a statement, "Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident."
On Wednesday BP sealed an out-of-court, $7.8 billion settlement with lawyers acting on behalf of thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Under the deal, the Gulf seafood industry is slated to receive over $2 billion for economic loss.