Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gulf Water and Beach Report

I have been in the Orange Beach/Perdido Key area for the past week. So far, I have been out on a boat to as far off-shore as 12 miles. There is no gross evidence of oil sheen or Corexit dispersant in the gulf water in that area or in Cotton Bayou. So far I have not developed any symptoms i.e. sore throat, cough, ear aches, headaches etc. of dispersant exposure. I also spoke with several people from this area who worked in the VOO (Vessel of Opportunity Program) in June, July and August who report that they developed respiratory symptoms including persistent cough. These of course are only anecdotal reports and do not represent a scientific sample.

Yesterday I spoke personally with a diver who was roughly 20 miles off-shore of the Orange Beach area over the weekend and who dove to about 120 feet while spear-fishing for Red Snapper. I specifically questioned him about any evidence for unusual findings on the seabed such as oil, sludge or abnormal marine life. He said the area that he dove in looked completely normal but of course, he did not do any testing. Apparently his group of divers were able to obtain their limit of Red Snapper without difficulty and the fish appeared normal upon filleting during the process of cleaning.

Last week the local media reported the presence of tar balls on Orange Beach. They also reported that core samples of the beach sand have demonstrated oil in multiple layers in the sand down several vertical feet. Apparently some new machines are being brought in which will be able to clean the sand down to that level.

Over the past several days, I have personally trolled successfully for King and Spanish Mackeral out to 12 miles off shore and did some bottom fishing for Red Snapper in roughly 80 feet of water. All the fish I caught appeared normal grossly and upon filleting. There was no peculiar odor. A friend asked if he could have the fish which I gave him. To date, he has eaten the Red Snapper 2 times with no untoward effects.

Some friends of mine have been eating the local seafood at restaurants and have been in the Gulf water for short dips swimming. They have to date not developed any untoward side effects.  None of my family have eaten any sea-food from restaurants here even though most visitors and locals appear to be eating it. We did eat Amberbjack on one occassion which we personally caught and cleaned. It appeard grossly normal. There are some anecdotal reports of certain fish species being caught that have gross changes in their livers. I will be checking those that I catch for these findings although so far have not encountered it.

To sum up, if I did not know about the recent oil spill, it would not have been apparent based on anything I could detect without scientific instruments. It appears that from this point on, it will require very sophisticated testing in order to further document the extent of potential damage.

Dr. John Hubert

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