Feds: Tuna Probably OK After BP Oil Spill
Originally published by NPR.
By the Associated Press
Last year’s BP oil spill probably won’t push the troubled bluefin tuna Gulf of Mexico population over the edge as some scientists had worried, a federal analysis shows.
Of all the potential damage from the 172-million-gallon spill in April 2010, scientists had been most concerned about how the oil spill would harm an already overfished species of large tuna. That’s because about one-fifth of the spawning habitat where the Gulf’s baby tuna were living was coated with oil, according to satellite records. Tuna less than a year old are most vulnerable to pollution.
An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using two different projections from computer models, says that at most, such a spill probably would result in a 4 percent reduction in future spawning of the fish, but probably far less.
Bluefin tuna is considered one of the Gulf’s signature species. A summit that begins Monday in Houston will examine the Gulf’s health, including the government’s restoration plans and the tuna’s fate.
“It appears so far that the impact on the larval population is relatively small,” said Clay Porch, director of sustainable fisheries for NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami.
The agency’s analysis, which was mentioned in two pages of a 114-page government update on overall tuna health released in May, is based on an assumption that 1 in 5 baby tuna was killed or unable to reproduce in the future because that’s the size of the spill in the spawning area.
That 20 percent potential loss of year-old tuna translates to 4 percent of the overall tuna population in the future. Overall population figures also have to factor in the fact that in general many baby tuna at that age die naturally.
But that is probably way too high a figure, Porch said in an interview.
Instead of 20 percent of baby tuna being harmed, more recent analysis yet to be published said it should be 11 percent or maybe even 5 percent, he said. Those figures should be reduced even more for the overall future population of tuna, down nearer to 2 percent.
At most that number should be 1 in 9 or even in 1 in 20 deaths of baby tuna, and that’s only the effect on one year for the long-lived tuna…
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