Coral Reefs Reeling in Wake of Oil Disaster

Dead and dying corals near the site of the BP oil disaster, courtesy of NOAA

How are coral reefs near ground zero of BP’s oil disaster faring only four months after the capping of the tragic spill? According to a report released by a team of federal researchers, not good. Biologist Charles Fisher said that the team had “discovered a community of coral that has been impacted fairly recently by something very toxic,” according to UPI News. USA Today released photos taken by the researchers’ discovery showing the extent of the damage.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “other researchers said they found sediment on the sea floor several miles from the BP well that was covered in a substance that appeared to be oil.” While it’s not still certain that the BP oil spill caused the damage to the reef, AOL News reports Fisher said “the compelling evidence that [was] collected constitutes a smoking gun.”

ROV collecting samples of damaged corals NOAA

A remotely operated vehicle collects samples of damaged coral, courtesy of NOAA

Coral reefs are made up of thousands of tiny animals called invertebrates – animals without a backbone like snails and ants. New corals build their “skeletons” on those of dead corals from earlier generations. This process – the generations and generations of coral colonies – creates the limestone skeletons that form the framework of the beautiful reef. But many stresses can impact reef health: waste water runoff, hazardous material spills, boat strikes, and bleaching due to rising water temperature and climate change are all deadly to coral reefs.

What you can do:

Help protect coral reefs, endangered sea turtles and other marine wildlife from harmful offshore drilling. Urge your senators today to support the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act (S. 3663)

Learn more about the threats facing coral reefs from Defenders’ board member Jeff Corwin in our special video “Feeling the Heat.”

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