Gulf Wildlife Impact
The brown pelican, driven to the brink of extinction in the 1960s after the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, has rebounded in the Gulf and has become one of the poster-children, or poster-animals, for the widening BP oil spill impact on the Gulf Coast wildlife. It's no longer the 1960s Silent Spring, but a very ugly spring and summer, and beyond, for the Brown Pelican. The brown pelican was just removed from the endangered species list last year.
It's not just the brown pelicans, but white pelicans, terns, gulls, shorebirds, skimmers and herons that are at risk with the oil encroaching on sensitive nesting and feeding areas along the Gulf Coast.
The lawsuits filed by environmental groups have also been flooding into the Gulf region, though many are taking aim at the Interior Department of the U.S. federal government. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network have all filed lawsuits making various allegations regarding Interior's Minerals Management Service ignoring law in its "too cozy" relationship with the oil industry.Some of these environmental groups also plan to sue over the U.S. District Court reversal of the offshore ban on drilling, lifted by a court order on Tuesday, June 22. From the biggest fish, the whale shark, which feeds in Gulf of Mexico waters during the summer, to the already endangered bluefin tuna, which uses Gulf of Mexico waters as a spawning ground, many fish species are threatened by the oil spill. There are 28 species of whales and dolphins in the Gulf, a majority of which inhabit Gulf waters year-round, according to conservation group Oceana. The evolving wildlife toll in the Gulf of Mexico would require an advanced course in marine biology to track, from spiny lobsters and all sorts of marine bivalves to oysters and fish larvae. Many of the Gulf species that feed on or near the surface, like the bottlenose dolphin, are impacted by the heavy crude oil that the human eye can see in photos or on television. Among fish species that support fishing businesses along the Gulf coast are snapper and grouper. Oceana notes that gag grouper spawning peaks in early April and red snapper spawning starts in late May, peaking from June-August. In effect, the spawning season couldn't be timed worse, and these vital fishing industry catches could see their numbers depleted. -- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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