Description of Oysters and Clams
Oyster is a type of seafood with high nutritional value both to marine life and human beings. Experts note that the plant is normally high in fat, protein, Iron and Vitamin D (Judy, 2010). However, oysters are not only part of marine and human nutritional delicacies; they are also an integral part of the sea environment. In the US Gulf coast, oysters are located near the shores (Freeman, 2010).
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Due to the close proximity to dry land, oysters and clams play a vital role in the prevention of shoreline and wetland erosion because they act as a natural barrier to slow down tidal waves (which cause wetland erosion).
Due to this reason (and several subsequent factors), oysters and clams contribute significantly to the environment because besides purifying seawater, Oysters and Clams are aquatic plants that provide shelter to other marine life (Freeman, 2010, p. 1). In the purification of seawater, oysters prevent the occurrence of algal bloom.
This is the major reason why oysters and clams are usually perceived to be the backbone of marine life since they are at the centre of the food chain, providing food to other aquatic life.
Despite the integral role oysters and clams play in the sea ecosystem, sea pollution (like the recent BP oil disaster) significantly affects sea eco-balance and subsequently, the sustainability of seafood for humans. This study analyses the impact of the BP oil disaster on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Immediate Impact of the Oil Spill on Oysters and Clams
Though it is scientifically proved that adult oysters can potentially reduce the harmful impact of toxic petrochemicals, it is also a well-known fact that these petrochemicals can significantly kill oyster larvae (Freeman, 2010, p. 1).
This effect is only felt in the short-term because in the long-term, it is feared that the chemical dispersants which were used to break the oil cover may have a long-lasting impact on the oysters. The method used to eliminate the oil spill (through fresh water release) was also disastrous to the beds of oysters and clams because it killed all growing oysters in the region (Freeman, 2010, p. 1).
Freeman (2010) affirms that “…..importantly, this freshwater release killed the oysters growing on the interior of the estuaries, an area protected from the oil and chemicals that were washing up on the intertidal oyster beds along the coast” (p. 1).
There were more concerns registered from environmental officials analyzing the impact of the oil spill because it was feared that the chemicals used were killing the oysters and clams too.
It was also reported that the oil spill also negatively affected the reproduction of oysters because they normally produce sperms and eggs in the water to fuse and grow into oysters, but the oil spill caused them to close their shells and eventually suffocate the oyster larvae (Weise, 2010).
Current Impact of the Oil Spill’s on Oysters and Clams
The real impact of the BP oil disaster on the oysters and clams cannot be easily quantified because it is feared that small sea animals may have consumed the petrochemicals from the oil spill (plus the chemicals used to curb the oil spill). These small sea animals will consequently be eaten by larger fish and finally by humans, to affect comprehensively the general eco-balance of sea life.
Already, oyster growth and numbers have been severely affected by the oil spill and it is still difficult to quantify the damage caused by their death on sea life. Moreover, scientists have observed that it is sometimes difficult to quantify the real impact of the oil spill because the effect of the oil impact is interlinked with other disasters waiting to happen (Judy, 2010, p. 3).
However, it is assumed that some adult oysters may not have been severely affected by the oil spill because they have the capability of reducing the negative effect of the toxins. However, the small oyster larvae may have died in large numbers.
The reason, why it is said that mature oysters may potentially survive the oil spill is because when mature oysters taste oil, they close as a result. Though they may not increase in number (because of the curtailing effect of the oil spill), it is assumed that the plants will generally survive (Judy, 2010, p. 3).
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Long-term Impact of the Oil Spill on Oysters and Clams
The long- term impact of the oil spill on the oysters and clams is not easy to determine because the larvae are said to die from the effects of the oil spill but the mature oysters are said to survive the oil spill (Freeman, 2010, p. 2). However, it should be noted that the oil spill significantly affected the oyster beds and this may have a long-term impact on the number of oysters in the sea.
Consequently, this means that the number of oysters and clams will potentially reduce, but the situation will normalize once the reproduction process of the oysters start again.
Nonetheless, as a result of the reduction in oyster numbers, the marine ecosystem maybe affected because the eco-balance will be destabilized. The situation is expected to normalize after a year because the oil disaster struck at the reproduction period and it may take another year for the situation to normalize again.
Impact of the Oil Spill on the Louisiana Economy
Impact on Economy during the Spill
Effect on Fishing Industry
The BP oil disaster was identified to have significantly affected the operation of the Louisiana economy because Louisiana is known to supply about 40% of America’s seafood (Weise, 2010). Because of health reasons, some of the oyster beds along the Louisiana coastline were closed.
This closure was bound to affect the supply of seafood in America and consequently the economy of Louisiana because for example, about 23% of all red-snapper fish caught in the US came from the state of Louisiana.
Moreover, since fish can swim away from the zone of oil spillage, it is feared that subsequent harvests are bound to be affected by the fish migration. Consequently, Louisiana fishers are bound to be significantly affected, in terms of low fish production.
Effect on Oil Industry
The oil spill had a significant impact on the economy of Louisiana and the surrounding marine life, but in the same manner, there was also a significant impact on the oil industry.
Not to mention the volumes of oil lost in the spillage, one significant impact of the oil disaster was the financial damages brought about by law suits and cost directed towards clearing the oil spill. In total, BP lost millions of dollars in financial damages and costs that went into restoring the company’s image and reputation in the eyes of the public.
Effect on Restaurants and Tourism
The hospitality industry also suffered great losses as a result of the oil spill because restaurants suffered insufficient supply of seafood because of the death of sea animals and the ensuing health risks posed by the oil spill on seafood.
Tourism was equally affected because the sea was polluted with petrochemicals from the oil spill and in the same manner; the sea was also polluted by chemicals meant to clear the oil spill. Hotels and resorts were therefore significantly affected because leisure activities at the shores were prohibited, consequently leading to a low turnout of visitors.
Current Impact on the Louisiana Economy
Currently, the fishing industry is slowly recovering from the impact of the oil spill after it was cleared. However, the industry is still wiling under the long-term effects of the oil spill because the population of oysters reduced as a result of the oil spill and consequently, fishers have to deal with competition from other seafood suppliers who have invaded its primary market to supplement its shortfall.
After the oil spill, the oil industry is still suffering from the effects of negative publicity as a result of the extensive damage the oil spill did on the environment and people’s livelihoods. It may probably take a long time before public confidence is restored.
Restaurants and Tourism
Restaurants and the tourism sectors also have to contend with waning public confidence about the impact of the oil spill on their services. For instance, many customers are now shunning seafoods in restaurants because of the fear that it may be unsafe to consume seafood because of the negative impact of the oil spill on aquatic life. Tourism is also suffering in the same regard because many visitors are still not confident to use the sea.
Cleaning After the Spill
After the oil spill cleanup, the sea situation has not come back to normal because scientists are still grappling with the problem of transferring oyster larvae from healthy sources into the affected areas.
After this process is completed, it may take a long time before the situation goes back to normal. In concurrence to these efforts, environmental bodies have also sued BP for the environmental damages it has caused. Most of these cases are yet to be finalized (Mcgill, 2011).
The BP oil spill has caused extensive damages not only to the environment but people’s livelihoods as well. It is difficult to undo such a disaster in a couple of weeks or months and therefore the impact of the oil spill is yet to be completely eliminated.
More so, its impact on the growth of oysters and clams may have a long-term impact on the marine ecosystem and therefore the comprehensive damage of the oil spill cannot be accurately determined. Nonetheless, it is no doubt that the effect of the oil spill is very extensive.
Freeman, M. (2010). The Oil Spill’s Impact on Gulf Coast Oysters. Web.
Judy, J. (2010). Oil Spill Threatens Gulf Oysters, May Impact Seafood Worldwide. Web.
Mcgill, K. (2011). Lingering Effects of BP Oil Spill Topic for Oyster Industry Leaders. Web.
Weise, E. (2010). Spill’s Effects Unlikely To Make Way to Grocery Aisles. Web.