Gulf oil spill updates: Oil on the sea floor and politics getting in the way of research

On September 10th, Samantha Joye, a professor at the Marine Science Department at the University of Georgia, found thick layers of oil on the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico. The finding of freshly packed oil on top of typical sea floor mud, with recently dead shrimp and worms, suggests the Deepwater Horizon oil didn’t evaporate in the air, dissipate into the water, or linger on the waves, but in fact has sunken onto the ocean’s floor.

David Hollander, from the University of South Florida, agrees with the new notion of oil on the sea floor. Hollander also adds the significance of such findings that could be detrimental to the marine ecosystem:

"A lot of fish go down to the bottom and eat and then come back up, and if all their food sources are derived from the bottom, then indeed you could have this impact [of oil disrupting the ecosystem]."

Findings of fresh droplets of oil on blue crab larvae — taken along the Gulf of Mexico — coincide with the September 10th findings of oil on the seafloor. Ultimately, blue crabs meander on the seafloors searching for food and, therefore, can easily serve as added evidence that BP’s oil is in fact sinking.

Furthermore, along with findings of oil on the seafloor, sightings of black waves from the Mississippi River were reported on September 12th. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries confirmed the reports of beaches covered in thick, black oil and tar balls. Ryan Lambert, owner of Buras-based Cajun Fishing Adventures, was shocked to see miles of oil diluted beaches and fish carnage washed ashore. He claims, “Everyone thinks this is over, but it's not — not if we can still get soakings like this."

But the real update is not whether oil lingers on the sea floor or is rolling onshore via waves, the real issue is the slow trickle of research being done. Harriet M. Perry, the director of the fisheries program at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, has recently found something more conflicting than evidence supporting sunken oil: her budget. According to Dr. Perry, there isn’t any research money allowing further investigation into oil found on blue crab larvae or any other findings for that matter.