The Associated Press: Scientists find damage to coral near BP well

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico - ...

Image by SkyTruth via Flickr

The Associated Press: Scientists find damage to coral near BP well.   <—Full Article

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For the first time, federal scientists have found damage to deep sea coral and other marine life on the ocean floor several miles from the blown-out BP well — a strong indication that damage from the spill could be significantly greater than officials had previously acknowledged.

Tests are needed to verify that the coral died from oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, but the chief scientist who led the government-funded expedition said Friday he was convinced it was related.

In early August, a federal report said that nearly 70 percent of the 170 million gallons of oil that gushed from the well into the sea had dissolved naturally, or was burned, skimmed, dispersed or captured, with almost nothing left to see — at least on top of the water. The report was blasted by scientists.

Most of the Gulf’s bottom is muddy, but coral colonies that pop up every once in a while are vital oases for marine life in the chilly ocean depths.

Coral is essential to the Gulf because it provides a habitat for fish and other organisms such as snails and crabs, making any large-scale death of coral a problem for many species. It might need years, or even decades, to grow back.

Using a robot called Jason II, researchers found the dead coral in an area measuring up to 130 feet by 50 feet, about 4,600 feet under the surface.

All photos from the Lophelia II 2010 research expedition

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