NOAA: 90% of corals have “dead and dying parts” at site near wellhead — Covered in “brown substance”

Scientists Observe Damage to Deep-sea Corals, NOAA, November 4, 2010:

Government and academic scientists on a multi-week expedition to explore deep-sea coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico have observed corals and associated communities of marine life that show evidence of recent damage. …

Operating from the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown and using a variety of tools including the National Deep Submergence Facility’s Jason II remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), researchers were working at a site 1,400 meters deep (roughly 4,600 feet) and approximately seven miles southwest of the Macondo wellhead when they visually observed dead and dying corals with sloughing tissue and discoloration.

Charles Fisher, Ph.D., professor of biology at Penn State University and chief scientist on the expedition, described much of the soft coral observed in an area measuring about 15 to 40 meters as covered by what appeared to be a brown substance. Ninety percent of 40 large corals were heavily affected and showed dead and dying parts and discoloration. Another site 400 meters away had a colony of stony coral similarly affected and partially covered with a similar brown substance. …

“These observations capture our concern for impacts to marine life in places in the Gulf that are not easily seen,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Continued, ongoing research and monitoring involving academic and government scientists are essential for comprehensive understanding of impacts to the Gulf.”

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