I am an avid fisherman. I fish most often with my father and have been lucky enough to fish with him in a number of exotic locations. However, no matter how far we travel we continue to find that nothing beats fishing in Louisiana. From Port Fourchon to Cocodrie, we have experienced the greatest fishing in the world. So it was with great interest that I recently read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine titled “Breaking Down Myths and Misconceptions About the Gulf Oil Spill” which was written by Hannah Waters. This article gives me hope that sport fishing in the Gulf has rebounded from the spill and that it will continue to be some of the best fishing in the world.
At the beginning of the article, Ms. Waters asks the question “does oil stick around indefinitely.” My initial reaction to the question was “of course it does.” However, that was apparently the wrong answer. In fact, oil is “readily degraded” and the Gulf is full of oil-eating bacteria. These oil-eating bacteria started breaking down the oil from the spill immediately after the eruption. Therefore, and at least according to this article, most of the oil that remained in the ocean has been broken down. But that does not mean that there are no problems. Ms. Waters does point out that the oil that worked its way into the marshes is not broken down as rapidly and still poses an environmental threat.
The second question, Ms. Winters addressed was whether ingested oil would pass up the food chain. While she does not give a clear “yes” or “no”, I was comforted by the fact that hydrocarbons can be readily broken down by fish and excreted within a few days of ingestion. However, bivalves, such as mussels and oysters, do not have this enzyme system and are more likely to pass contaminants to humans when consumed.
Ms. Winters also addressed the reports of fish mutations. Personally, when fishing in the Gulf both pre and post spill I have never caught a “mutated” fish. However, I have read reports of fish mutations and it did cause me concern. After reading the article, I was impressed by the fact that “mutations” were simply not common-place and most were not true mutations but were simply lesions brought on by increased stress.
The Gulf spill clearly raises environmental concerns. Law suits are still being fought today over these environmental ramifications. But after reading Ms. Winters’ article I felt better about the long term prospects of the Gulf. I also learned a lot about the adaptability of species and the pivotal role that both big and small animals play in the ecosystem. If you have an interest in the subject, take a second and read this fascinating article.
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