Enormous mass of dead fish troubles scientists and Louisiana residents

Oceanographers and scientists have been warning that only time will reveal how much damage BP’s massive oil spill and its use of chemical oil dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico have done to the environment and marine ecology. This week a troubling sign has emerged in the form of an astonishingly large mass of floating dead fish just west of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Masses of dead fish surfacing in the Gulf of Mexico are unfortunately  common events, especially near the mouth of the Mississippi River where oxygen-depleted dead zones created by miles of fertilizer runoff frequently choke the life out of fish and other sea creatures. Many environmentalists say that increasing dead zones make the Gulf of Mexico a dying sea. But what’s especially troubling about this fish kill is its enormous size and the unusual variety of sea life in it.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told CBS News, “This is an extremely large fish kill, and there are many species in there. It’s not just one group of fish — it’s redfish and trout and flounder. All species have been identified in this fish kill.”

The fish kill follows the discovery of a starfish kill in nearby Barataria Bay and the unusual discovery of a dead baby whale near Venice, Louisiana. Other residents have documented dead and dying dolphins, sea birds, and a broad range of other creatures in the area.

Although a conclusive link between BP’s oil spill and Friday’s fish kill has yet to be established, concern continues to mount over BP’s unprecedented and possibly unlawful use of Corexit chemical dispersants to minimize the spill’s appearance. Scientists were puzzled earlier last month when they found the size of the oil mass on the surface shrinking at a surprisingly fast rate. Now that disappearing oil has been discovered on the sea floor or hovering above it for miles, from Louisiana all the way to Panama City, Florida.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched biologists to the site of the fish kill to perform tests and try to determine its cause.

“Here we are, trying to get our fishing back, trying to get our seafood back and with these kind of fish kills, it will have a lasting effect, if we don’t do something about it,” Nungesser told CBS News.

Plaquemines Parish officials have requested the involvement of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in investigating the fish kill.