On September 19th, BP pronounced its Macando well dead. End of story? Hardly. A September 19th trip along the coast of Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish proved the oil is still out there , and more and more fish kills have been reported. According to the AP, Wildlife and Fisheries are writing off the recent fish kills: Lack of oxygen caused by low tide and high temperatures suffocated the fish, they say. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated oxygen levels had fallen by 20 percent if areas of the gulf where plumes of oil were found according to an article in the Times of London by Jacqui Goddard.
P. J. Hahn, director of the Coastal Zone Management Department of Plaquimines Parish, agrees the fish suffocated, but he isn’t so sure the BP oil disaster isn’t in some way connected. He showed me the spot in Bayou Robinson where he found a new fish kill on Sept. 18th, the third reported in one week. Finding the spot wasn’t too hard, the smell unmistakable. Birds and dolphins were feasting on the dead fish like an X marking the spot.
The predominant species found floating on the surface were menhaden, also called pogie, mixed with crab and catfish. Unlike the first major fish kill on Sept 15th, a thin coating of oil was visible on many of the fish. Though fish kills are a common occurrence at the end of the summer, their current frequency and scale are unprecedented, Hahn explained. It is impossible to rule out oil or dispersant as factors until tests are done.
Hank Bart, an ichthyologist at Tulane’s Natural History Museum, concurs. “Fish kills are caused by organism booms, either bacterial or algae, that suck the oxygen out of the water. The cause for such growths come from a variety of circumstances that can’t be determined without testing.”
Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser, who has been fighting for faster and greater action all along, acknowledged it is good to hear the well is finally dead; however, he stressed he will fight BP and the government till the end to make sure his parish has been made whole again, as promised. Plaquemines Parish’s district attorney is conducting his own tests with the help of a specialist from Alaska, not relying solely on the federal government’s testing. On the upside, scientists and lawyers in the region won’t be short of work any time soon. “can anybody look the American people in the eye and say it absolutely has nothing to do with dispersants, the oil, or the breakdown of the oil, or does anybody care? I mean somebody has to be as upset as I am?” Nungesser asked.
WWL TV in New Orleans followed up by interviewing an agent from Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, who said no testing was deemed necessary because his agents found no sign of pollution at the site of the fish kills. 30 minutes later the another representative from Louisisana Wildlife and Fisheries called WWL and said the fish from Bayou Robinson would be tested after all.
To see the story shot by Phin Percy for Fox 8 on the fish kill click here