Anxious monitoring near Florida coral reefs for oil spill

June 20, 2010
This undated University of Miami image shows Gorgonian Corals in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. The coral reefs stretching beyond the Key West islands at the tip of Florida are the third largest in the world behind Australia and Belize and a mecca for divers and fishing enthusiasts from around the world.

A team of scientists and divers for 20 days has been monitoring the world's third largest coral reefs at Florida's Dry Tortugas islands for signs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Verdict: so far, so good.

"We didn't find any trace of the oil spill, that's the good news, but we'll have to keep our fingers crossed," said University of Miami coral expert Jerald Ault.

Ault headed a team of 25 scientists who made 1,700 dives combing the fragile coral reefs at Dry Tortugas National Park for signs of oil pollution damage.

The stretching beyond the Key West islands at the tip of Florida are the third largest in the world behind Australia and Belize and a mecca for divers and fishing enthusiasts from around the world.

They face the on one side, and scientists worry the massive oozing for the past two months from a damaged BP oil well could reach the Loop Current and spread beyond offshore to southern Florida and up the eastern seaboard of the country.

"The loop current might bring some oil and if that occurs it would be certainly a bad thing for the corals," Ault said.

"It is hard to imagine something worse," said Billy Causey, regional director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, Causey believes there is no cause for concern.

"It is highly unlikely that the Keys will see a sheen or liquid form of any oil" from the Gulf of Mexico spill, he said.

Even so, just the thought of tar balls and oil slicks washing over shorebirds on the seven islands that make up the Dry Tortugas, makes National Park Service chief biologist David Hallac shudder.

"The magnificent frigatebirds and sooty terns that nest on the beaches are some of the main concern," he said, adding that other animals were also at risk.

"Four hundred sea turtle nest per season on the beach," the biologist said.

Explore further: Dry Tortugas show positive trends: Protected area slowly rebounding

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not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
Because of trhe loop current and trade winds from the SE means it's unlikely for oil to hit the Key's or any part of Fla other than a light hit in the panhandle.

It's actually more likely to hit the west UK, home of BP ironically from the currents, wind. Though could hit from the Carolinas north based on historical wind, current patterns.
not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
""It is highly unlikely that the Keys will see a sheen or liquid form of any oil" from the Gulf of Mexico spill"

That may be true for oil on the ocean's surface, but how do you accurately track underwater plumes of oil at varying depths and concentrations? Add a few tropical storms or hurricanes to the mix and see what happens to the distribution of the oil on the water's surface. We're being told that here in Tampa-St. Pete that we should be OK as far as surface slicks go, but storm surges and extra high tides from a well-placed storm in the Gulf might make that a moot point.
not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
i just watched a vid of jeff corbin interviewed on some news program. there is a nasty solar absorption effect as he said that he was surprised at how hot the oil floating on the surface was and that it was "like hot syrup".

not rated yet Jun 21, 2010
I am from Tampa and it's unlikely even with TS or hurricanes it will hit here. The reason is both the winds circle around thus the oil stays about the same place. If deeper unwater it won't be affected by storms at all. I went snorkeling during a hurricane and underwater it was just like the storm wasn't there.

I'm an ocean sailboat sailor/racer, navigator so I know what's going on better than most 'experts', or we miss our landfall, many who don't have a clue. Tides have no bearing on where oil is going in the gulf.

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