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Seminar, publications share science about oil spill’s impact on fisheries

By: Larissa Graham / Published: Oct 08,  2015

Five years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. During this time, scientists have been working hard to answer lingering questions about the spill. Many residents along the Coast have had questions about how the oil spill impacted fisheries and whether Gulf seafood was safe to eat.

Recently, the Oil Spill Science Outreach Team released two outreach publications that answered these questions.

Fisheries Landings and Disasters in the Gulf of Mexico – This outreach publication shows the changes in historical fisheries landings data within the context of manmade and natural disasters and explains why this data is important for fisheries management.

The main take home messages are:

  • Landings data are an important tool to help people monitor change in the health of fish and shellfish populations over time.
  • Landings alone cannot determine the cause of disaster impacts to fishery populations and other factors such as ocean currents, weather, and management actions must be considered.
  • It will take a long time for scientists to understand the impact that DWH had on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, but science is beginning to reveal some pieces of the puzzle.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill’s Impact on Gulf Seafood – This outreach publication lists the results of federal, state and independent seafood testing after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The main take home messages are:

  • Federal and state agencies closed waters to fishing during the oil spill and developed a plan to collect seafood samples and test them for chemicals found in oil and dispersant before reopening these areas.
  • Of the 22,000 seafood samples that these agencies tested during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, no sample were over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s level of concern.
  • Scientists are still studying groups of people that may eat more seafood than average to ensure that seafood is safe for these communities.

Chris Hale, left, Monica Wilson, Steve Sempier, Larissa Graham and Emily Maung-Douglass make up the oil spill science outreach team.
Chris Hale, left, Monica Wilson, Steve Sempier, Larissa Graham and Emily Maung-Douglass make up the oil spill science outreach team.

The next series of outreach publications will focus on dispersants, including how and why dispersants are used, how they move around and persist in the environment and how they can impact aquatic wildlife. All outreach publications will be available online at http://gulfseagrant.org/oilspilloutreach/publications.

Oil spill science seminar

The oil spill outreach team will also be hosting an oil spill science seminar: Healthy Gulf Seafood on Nov. 18, 2015. This seminar will focus on how agencies tested seafood during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and what they found. Speakers will also talk about ways that fish and other animals break down contaminants, like oil, and how scientists monitoring seafood to keep consumers safe. To register, visit http://gulfseagrant.org/oilspilloutreach/presentations/. See flyer.

The oil spill outreach program is a partnership between the Sea Grant programs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The Gulf of Mexico Alliance manages and administers funding for GoMRI. The purpose of the outreach program is to share oil spill science with people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf. The oil spill science outreach team organizes science seminars and creates outreach publications that answer questions about the oil spill with the latest science. To learn more about the program, visit http://gulfseagrant.org/oilspilloutreach. To be updated about the oil spill science outreach team activities, seminars and publications, sign up for their email list (click here). 

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