The Deepwater Horizon spill is wreaking havoc with human lives and ecosystems around the Gulf Coast. One species hit harder than most is the brown pelican. After an enormous effort by Federal, state, local, and nonprofit conservation agencies, the bird finally graduated entirely from the Endangered Species List last year. It's not heading back onto the list as a result of this spill - the population has grown to a healthy 650,000. But it's rapidly becoming the poster animal for oil damage.
It's not just the pelicans who suffer. Last year, LSU biologist Prosanta Chakrabarty discovered two new species of bottom-dwelling pancake batfish - which today are smack dab in the path of the massive underwater plume of oil. Chakrabarty has noted that his article formally describing the new fish will appear in the August edition of the Journal of Fish Biology. By that point, the two species might merit being nominated to the same Endangered Species List the brown pelican has escaped from.
COMMENT: I avoid politics on this blog - so many people cover it much better than I could, so I focus on my niche - but this case is a reminder that science, technology, and policy are inextricably linked. I was never opposed to underwater drilling, mainly because American/British companies had a good record of doing it safely, and the switch to a "no oil economy" is not something that will happen quickly or painlessly. At the least, though, future drilling needs to be done under much more stringent oversight, with government inspectors permanently stationed on the rigs until a given project has finished drilling and has extracted oil for some period of time without incident. Just one non-expert's opinon.