BRADENTON — Federal marine agencies are doing a good job in the aftermath of the massive BP oil well blowout, but more money and attention should be focused on universities and marine institutions to help calculate the long-term ecological effects.
That was one of the points made Thursday by Richard Pierce, senior scientist and director of the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Ecotoxicology. He was the keynote speaker at the Keep Manatee Beautiful 2010 Awards Program Luncheon.
Pierce praised the work done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but added a caveat:
“There’s not enough attention and money focused on it, particularly for universities and institutions like Mote, to get out there and really find out what’s going on,” he said at the Bradenton Country Club.
Mote was able to respond to the spill because of “tremendous community support” it received in the form of nearly $300,000 in contributions, he said.
The money paid for pre-oil baseline assessment and monitoring of critical habitat and collection of samples. The assessment could be used to document damage if oil suddenly washed ashore.
However, Pierce was quick to note that Manatee and Sarasota counties luckily remain pristine, without any sign of oil.
Still, other areas were not so lucky: The spill leaked more than 200 million gallons of south Louisiana crude oil into the Gulf, compared to 150 million from the damaged Ixtoc well near Mexico in 1979; and 10.8 million gallons spilled in Alaska by the supertanker Exxon Valdez in 1989, he said.
He listed impacts to wildlife, such as the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, with 321 found alive and 437 found dead. Pierce noted that Mote’s Sea Turtle Hospital recently received funding to increase its capacity from 24 to 34 turtles.
Pierce also was disturbed about plumes of oil composed of tiny droplets that scientists have found deep beneath the Gulf surface.
“The concern now is dispersed oil at depth,” he said. “We don’t have a real good handle on where it is and how much,” he said after the luncheon.
BP’s Deepwater Horizon well caught fire and exploded in April. The flow of oil from it was halted in mid-July.