How Healthy Is the Gulf? Fishermen and Oilmen Clash, The Atlantic, March 10, 2011:
James Cowan, a veteran researcher and professor at Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science, told me in an interview that the picture was just beginning to unfold for his team. The news is not encouraging. "We expect that if there is going to be a problem from the spill, it's going to be in reproductive biology," he said. Early signs suggest that the number of young white shrimp juveniles in estuaries has been reduced following the spill.
On the reefs further offshore, critical areas where red snappers and groupers live before migrating to deeper water, fishermen have reported dismal catches of red snappers in areas that have been productive in the past. "They are telling us that the reefs are just dead," Cowan said. "There's nothing there." The few fish that are being caught are at the tops of some underwater pinnacles, which makes sense, Cowan said, if the oil has migrated to the bottom.
More worrying, according to Cowan, is that a lot of oil lies buried under just a few centimeters of silt--just deep enough to cut off the oxygen that oil-destroying microbes need to work. For now, the oil remains intact, but it could be flushed back into the water should the bottom be disturbed buy something like a tropical storm. "That stuff is just waiting," Cowan said. ...
"Right now, with this new season beginning to unfold, we're likely to see more impacts," he said. "BP wants to settle, settle, settle. But people who study the Gulf and actually understand it know that the impacts will be felt in different ways for different species long after BP's liability will have been discharged."
Read the report here.