Oil spill may be causing increase in open water swarming

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From Green Right Now Reports

One more reason to be skeptical about assertions that the BP oil spill has been largely cleaned up: An increase in the number of creatures swarming to escape oxygen-depleted sea waters.

The phenomenon – called “jubilees” by Gulf Coast residents who traditionally take the opportunity to scoop up free seafood in buckets – usually appears during summer and causes swarms along the shoreline. This year, scientists say, jubilees are occurring in open water for the first time, due to an increase in low-oxygen areas possibly resulting from the more than four million barrels of oil the BP spill dumped into the Gulf.

“Most of us believe it had something to do with the oil,” said Robert Shipp, chairman of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of South Alabama. Shipp added that there was a “consensus” among faculty at the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab that oil played a part in the event.

First recorded in Mobile Bay in 1867, jubilees typically occur when strong winds churn oxygen-deprived, or hypoxic, water from the bottom of the bay to the surface. Hypoxic seawater is referred to as “dead zones.” It forces suffocating fish, stingrays and other marine animals to move elsewhere in search of oxygen.

According to an NOAA study, the Gulf’s dead zone as of July 31 measured 7,722 square miles, twice as big as last year. These days, the giant dead zone is attributed in large part to fertilizer run off from the Mississippi, which carries nitrites downriver and into the gulf, where they cause exponential growth of algae that deplete water oxygen levels.

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