New data released by NOAA shows that the massive BP oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is already contaminating one major protected North American Marine Ecoregion, containing more than 60 percent of America’s tidal marshes. The slick also threatens to impact at least two more Ecoregions in the near future.
The site of the initial explosion beneath the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP is within the boundaries of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecoregion, an area described by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation as a marine protected area that:
“… contains over 60 percent of the tidal marshes of the United States, freshwater inputs from thirty-seven major rivers, numerous nursery habitats for fish and the Flower Gardens Banks.”
The Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecoregion contains numerous species at risk, many of which we have seen severely effected by oil contamination already, including:
- Kemp’s Ridley turtles
- Loggerhead turtles
- Alabama Shad
- Dwarf Seahorses, and
- Sand Tiger sharks
The oil slick is also very close to entering the Southern Gulf of Mexico Marine Ecoregion, which is described as containing:
“Habitats such as coastal lagoons, estuaries, and dunes to mangroves, seagrass beds and some coral reefs help to support the 1,000 plus species of fishes that occur in the Gulf of Mexico. “
This ecoregion also contains many species at risk, including:
- Maya octopus
- Great White shark
- Bull shark, and
- Atlantic Manta Ray
A third Marine Ecoregion, the South Florida/Bahamian Atlantic, is also under threat of contamination by the oil slick and is situated about 150 miles South East.
If you use Google Maps, you can download this Google Earth file created by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation that contains North Americas Marine Ecoregions and NOAA’s oil spill trajectory maps.
Get Grist in your inbox