According to National Geographic magazine, scientists discovered a massive deep-sea coral die-off this month about 7 miles southwest of the site where BP’s blown-out well spewed millions of gallons of crude oil for months.
Scientists who made the discovery said that vast communities of bottom-dwelling coral in the Gulf of Mexico were dead or dying under a strange dark substance. The damaged coral beds were found at depths of up to 4,600 feet.
Scientific team member Timothy Shank of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told National Geographic that he’s never seen anything like it before. “When we tried to take samples of the coral, this black—I don’t know how to describe it—black, fluffylike substance fell off of them.”
Lead scientist Charles Fisher of Penn State University told National Geographic that “Corals do die, but you don’t see them die all at once. This … indicates a recent catastrophic event.”
Although careful not to jump to conclusions, the scientists interviewed in the National Geographic story said that BP’s oil spill is the likely cause of the massive coral kill-off.
For months, scientists have expressed alarm over BP’s unprecedented (some would say reckless) use of oil dispersants such as Corexit to break the massive oil spill down. BP workers were found to be injecting massive quantities of toxic dispersant directly into the blown-out well nearly a mile below the surface while simultaneously spraying the surface.
As a result, the oil spill looked less serious on the surface because most of the oil was suspended in massive cloudy plumes below the surface and on the bottom.
Scientists involved in the recent findings echoed the warnings of marine toxicologists who have insisted for months that the presence of hydrocarbon-laden oil compounds and chemical dispersants would have a serious, largely unknown effect on Gulf’s ecosystem.
“It could be the tip of the iceberg of all kinds of weird things we’re going to see in the Gulf of Mexico in the next three to five years” due to the Gulf spill, University of South Florida oceanographer John Paul said, adding that the coral die-off is a “smoking cannon” that implicates BP in a much broader, deeper environmental disaster than typically reported.