It's been a year since the explosion of a BP oil rig that leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and reports are mixed over how the area's recovery and cleanup efforts are going. While visible oil on the water has disappeared, many scientists are worried about what lurks beneath the surface and in the Gulf's precious wetlands.
Coastal erosion, or the disappearance of land along the coast, has been a major concern along the shores of the Gulf for decades. But, some scientists are worried that the effects of the oil spill might be accelerating the erosion process. Plants in marshlands around the coast that were damaged by the oil are not growing back as quickly, and their roots are what holds the soil together and keeps it from eroding.
Scientists and researchers are also divided over what happened to the massive amounts of oil that spewed from the well; some suggest most of it was consumed by bacteria, while others say it likely sank to the bottom of the Gulf where it may have suffocated wildlife. Maura Wood of the National Wildlife Federation says some disturbing incidents have led her to believe that the spill's effect on the Gulf ecosystem is far from over. For example, Wood says baby dolphins born prematurely have been washing up on shores in greater numbers than ever before.
Although BP has insisted it will continue to clean up from the spill until the Gulf returns to the way it was before, the uncertainty of when that cleanup will be complete is difficult for those who make their living from the Gulf. Shrimpers and fishermen are still unsure what will happen to future seafood crops as a result of the spill, but for now, they'll have to wait and see.
"Our concern is next year, the offspring from this crop. Will they come out fertile and will they come out deformed? You know, that's what happened in Alaska with the herring and the shrimp. We don't know what's going to happen in the future." - Acy Cooper, Louisiana Shrimp Association
"You see baby dolphins washing up dead. You see numbers of sea turtles beyond the norm, of endangered sea turtles, like the Kemp's ridley turtle. You see coastal marshes that are not growing back, that are black and dead and still covered with oil." - Maura Wood, National Wildlife Federation
"We estimate that we have accomplished about 95 percent of the affected residual cleaning and removal of hydrocarbons across the areas from the Florida Panhandle to the Louisiana coastlines. We will be there as long as it takes to complete that last 5 percent." - Mike Ustler, BP
1. What is erosion? Why can it be damaging to an ecosystem?
2. What happened in the Gulf of Mexico one year ago?
3. What kinds of industries are prevalent in the Gulf region?
1. Why do you think scientists and experts working in the Gulf are so divided over the damage the oil has done?
2. According to what you saw in the video, what is currently the main concern for fishermen who make their living off of the Gulf waters?
3. According to the video, why can’t certain scientific findings such as dead dolphins washed up on shore be made available to the public? Do you think the public’s attitude would change if those findings were published? Why or why not?