Bluefin Tuna Suffering From Heart Attacks Due to BP Gulf Oil Spill
By Andy Rowell
The fallout from the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues. The oil giant is attempting to force the U.S. government to release evidence which BP says proves that the oil spill did much less damage than at first feared.
According to the Financial Times, in filings to the U.S. court in New Orleans, LA, BP believes there is “extensive evidence that the environmental harm was far less than the U.S. or others feared” and that the “environmental recovery is well under way.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
The filing was made to support BP’s case for a reduced fine under the Clean Water Act.
However, just as BP argues the impact of the spill is less than people thought, new science is still being published showing evidence of harm. The latest to be published examined the spill’s effects on the hearts of tuna fish.
The Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred at the worst time for the tuna. It occurred at the peak spawning season of the western Atlantic population of bluefin tuna in the Gulf.
During the disaster, tuna embryos and larvae were exposed to the crude oil, causing a significant decline in the tuna population, with the latest estimate undertaken in 2012 that the population was just 36 percent of the baseline 1970 value.
Now scientists from Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have discovered that the crude oil interferes with fish heart cells, preventing them from beating effectively and leading to a reduced heart rate. This can lead to heart attacks and death, they argue writing in the journal Science.
Although scientists have known that components of crude oil, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons” (PAHs) are toxic to fish, especially hearts of fish embryos and larvae, they did not understand the mechanisms of how the damage was caused.
“We’ve known from NOAA research over the past two decades that crude oil is toxic to the developing hearts of fish embryos and larvae, but haven’t understood precisely why,” said co-author of the study Nat Scholz, leader of the Ecotoxicology Program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
The researchers found that crude oil interferes with cardiac cell contraction and relaxation, which are vital processes for normal a heartbeat. The study concluded that “results lead us to believe that PAH cardiotoxicity was potentially a common form of injury among a broad range of species during and after the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill.”
Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. Oceans at Oceana, argues that the study is a “reminder that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the biggest environmental disaster” of our time. “Even though we can’t see many of the effects, they’re still happening,” she contends.
Nor are they the only recent research showing evidence of harm. Back in December, research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, examined the effects of the spill on bottle-nosed dolphins.
Nearly half of dolphins were identified as being in “guarded or worse” condition, with seventeen in such poor or grave condition they were “not expected to survive.”
Among other health problems were lung and liver damage, pneumonia and low levels of adrenal stress-response hormones. A quarter of the dolphins were also underweight. “I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals—and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,” said the lead author Dr. Lori Schwacke.
So that is BP’s problem. It is trying to argue that its oil had less impact than previously thought, and yet the science is telling us otherwise. And it still may be years before we know the true extent of the damage to the Gulf’s ecosystem.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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