Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Editorial: Gulf research is critical

Editorial: Gulf research is critical

Originally Published by Pensacola News Journal


Concerns about sick red snapper and other fish in the Gulf of Mexico make clear the importance of continued, long-range research into the environmental impact of the BP oil spill.

The layman's logical step is to conclude that the problems in the fish — including skin lesions, spots, liver blood clots and fin rot — are connected to the oil spill. But scientists admit they don't yet know the cause, and that it could be something else.
Maybe it's a natural condition that has been exacerbated by the stress the spill induced in fish.
A roster of state and federal agencies testing seafood assure us that it is safe. They report no traces of oil-related chemicals being found in commercially available seafood. But perhaps their testing method — obtaining fish from local seafood markets across the Gulf Coast — selects out the sick fish because fishermen don't try to sell them to the markets, or else the markets won't buy them.
That could simultaneously mean that seafood available for sale is indeed safe, but that there are also sick fish out there.
It could also raise concerns about how long the fish are sick before these problems manifest themselves. Could the sickness in the fish make them unhealthy for human consumption even though they don't show any signs of oil contamination at that point?
It shows the complexity involved in trying to identify environmental problems.
Dick Snyder, director of the University of West Florida's Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, made the point well: "Cause and effect is a huge problem for environmental work. You see anomalies in fish. Is it oil related? How do we prove it? We can make the connection with economic stuff. But after the oil is gone, how do you definitely say the fish are sick because of the oil spill?"
Snyder said that we might never know the full impact. But the only real chance we have is to continue the research, and to increase the focus anytime a specific problem surfaces.
Certainly, this problem is one that bears more intense scrutiny

No comments:

Post a Comment