02 November 2015, News Wires – A new study reveals that damage to coral resulting from the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico is worse than previously thought, according to reports.
The study, which will be published in the oceanography journal Deep-Sea Research, found sick and dying corals in the Pinnacles, an outcropping on the Continental Shelf that is home to a rich, deep-water environment about 70 miles (113 kilometres) off the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi.
Researchers from Florida State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explored the Pinnacles using remotely operated submarines to locate more than 400 colonies of injured coral in 2011,according to wire service Associated Press
The coral was covered in a “scum” of dead tissue and oily residue, while some showed signs of more severe damage, such as bare skeletons and missing branches.
The damage from the spill could be even greater, AP reported.
“The area we have looked at so far is only the tip of the iceberg,” the wire service quoted one of the researchers as saying.
The colonies in the study are about 35 miles to 68 miles (56 kilometres to 109 kilometres) north of BP’s blown-out Macondo well, which spewed more than 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Previous discoveries of coral damage were found south of the well and in much deeper water. The coral in the Pinnacles live about 200 feet under the water surface, AP reported.
The researchers believe the damage began when oil floating over the Pinnacles was sprayed with chemical dispersants, causing the oil to sink and contaminate the reef. The study also hypothesises that a tropical storm that passed over the Pinnacles in the summer of 2010 could have caused the oil to contaminate the coral.