ST. PETERSBURG — Scientists meeting here Wednesday to discuss the oil spill's effects on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem had a visitor at the table with plenty of first-hand experience.
Phillip R. Mundy is the former scientific director for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The council was formed to oversee $900 million worth of restoration to the injured Alaska ecosystem, where the Exxon Valdez tanker caused a huge spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, according to the council's website.
"They want to know what they're up against, and it's very, very sad," was Mundy's assessment as Florida scientists met to discuss the Deepwater Horizon spill’s consequences.
"It's very, very sad to me to come back and see this," he said.
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In Alaska, he said they looked at what the oil had done to the environmental system, and how it had changed as a result.
Once, the herring fisheries there comprised some of the biggest in the Gulf of Alaska, said Mundy.
In 1993, four years after the spill, those populations collapsed, he said.
"After 1989, we quit fishing, we haven't fished for 15 years," Mundy said. "The herring population is very, very low. I can't tell you exactly how it worked, but it is obvious the oil triggered something in the ecosystem."
"You may be looking at the same kind of situation here with tuna," he surmised.