Portions of the Gulf are So Toxic that Dolphins, Fish, Crabs, Stingrays and Other Animals are "Trying to Crawl Out of the Water"

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On Friday, Inter Press Service reported:

Danny Ross, a commercial fisherman from Biloxi… said he has watched horseshoe crabs trying to crawl out of the water, and other marine life like stingrays and flounder trying to escape the water as well. He believes this is because the water is hypoxic. …

 

David Wallis, another fisherman from Biloxi… [said] “I’ve seen crabs crawling out of the water in the middle of the day. This is going to be affecting us far into the future.”

This has been a common occurrence since BP started spilling oil into the Gulf.

The Post Chronicle noted on August 12th:

Some
local fishermen say they are seeing strange behavior by marine life --
mullets, crabs and other creatures which normally stay well under water
have been sighted congregating on the surface -- and they relate this
to the spill.

***

"It looks like all of the sea life is trying to get out of the water,"
said Alabama fisherman Stan Fournier. "In the 40 years I have been on
these waters I've never seen anything like this before."

The Advocate-Messenger pointed out on July 31st:

Besides
potentially maintaining higher levels of toxicity, the oil trapped in
the water column is also suffocating the ocean, causing radical drops
in oxygen levels never before seen, [Monty Graham, a biological
oceanographer specializing in plankton at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on
the coast of Alabama] said.

 

Following the oil and methane
spill, Graham’s measurements of oxygen levels in the waters where he
studies plankton dropped to two to three times lower than normal, to a
level so low most animals cannot tolerate it.

 

That
suffocating effect is why all kinds of sea animals have been showing up
in greater and greater numbers, closer and closer to shore — they can’t
breathe in their normal habitats anymore
.

And AP wrote in June:

Dolphins
and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the
Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the
thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep
into marshes, never to be seen again.

 

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange — and troubling — phenomena.

 

Fish
and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering
in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it
might appear to be, researchers say.

 

The animals' presence close
to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding
could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the
animals could easily get devoured by predators.

 

"A parallel
would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire?
There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this
water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke
University marine biologist.

Tragically, when
sea animals crowd into shallow water in an attempt to escape pollution,
they can quickly use up all available oxygen.

As the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection writes:

The
warmer water is the less dissolved oxygen it is able to hold. If the
fish schooled very tightly in shallows very close to shore for any
reason, they may have simply used up all the oxygen that was available
to them and died.”

Update: Bloomberg reports on August 23rd that scientists confirm that this is related to the oil spill:

BP
Plc’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be exacerbating a natural
phenomenon that causes fish, crabs, eels and shrimp to swarm the
shoreline to escape oxygen-depleted sea waters.

 

Called
"jubilees" by locals because of the opportunity to scoop up seafood in
buckets, they typically appear during the summer along the Gulf Coast.
This year, scientists say jubilees have occurred in open water for the
first time, raising concern that low-oxygen areas are expanding because
of the more than 4 million barrels of oil BP’s Macondo well leaked into
the Gulf.

 

Low oxygen in the water because of oil and methane
from the BP spill contributed to a “jubilee-like effect” in late June
off the coast of Fort Morgan, Alabama, at the mouth of Mobile Bay Monty
Graham, a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in
Alabama, said in a telephone interview. Catfish, shrimp, crab and
flounder piled up along an offshore sandbar, until the sharks moved in,
Graham, 45, said.

 

“Most of us believe it had something to do
with the oil,” said Robert Shipp, 67, chairman of the Marine Sciences
Department at the University of South Alabama. There was a “consensus”
among faculty at the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island
Sea Lab that oil played a part in the event, which was “quite
different” from the naturally occurring jubilees in the Gulf’s Mobile
Bay, Shipp said.

 

***

 

“Oil residues on the bottom and in
the water columns could exacerbate and make worse this phenomenon,”
Kent Mountford, an environmental historian who has studied estuarine
ecology for 46 years, said in a telephone interview. Mountford, 73,
works for Cove Corp., an environmental consultancy, in Lusby, Maryland.