Independent Researchers Document Eery Underwater Landscape Void of Marine Life


To cut through all the misinformation and all the spin – to get to the truth about how the Gulf is really doing below the surface – there’s no substitute for going down there and taking a look yourself. That’s exactly what scuba divers Scott Porter, a marine biologist, and Michael Boatright, a forensics and recovery specialist, did earlier this month. What they found is (more) alarming evidence that something is very wrong with the Gulf of Mexico – a reality that flies directly in the face of BP’s claim of a full and miraculous recovery.

The footage shows divers Porter and Boatright examining the ocean floor and the water conditions off the coast of Destin, Florida. According to Mr. Boatright, the dive was prompted by calls from locals who have become increasingly concerned about toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the sand, on the beaches and in the water. As it turns out, their concerns are well-founded.

The video and commentary from the divers provide a “before and after” spill comparison. Boatright sets the stage: “I’m just relaying what I used to see versus what I see now…[and] it looks a whole lot different.” He notes a suspicious contrast in the color of the sand on the seafloor, which he describes as having gone from white to “tan” since the spill. The divers take samples from the ocean floor that resemble cocktails of blackened sand and oil. We will report back on the lab results from those samples as soon as they become available.

The divers observed an eery underwater landscape void of nearly all marine life. From Mr. Porter:

I [only saw] two schools of bait fish in the six dives that we did. I find that alarming because I really expected to see a whole lot more bait fish. In the times I’ve dove here in the past it’s pretty common to see schools of bait fish swimming by pretty regular…. There’s a lot of flounder and a lot of crab here, and we [only saw] one baby flounder in all the dives and just a handful of crabs, not very many crabs whatsoever.

Porter’s “alarming” (his word, not mine) observations are right in line with increasing reports from commercial fishermen that their catches are severely depleted. And visibly sick fish, crabs and other marine life are turning up in increasing numbers (see link to my previous post below) all over the northern quadrant of the Gulf.

More observations from Porter:

…lo and behold we were finding very dark, dark patches of sand, almost black patches of sand, and we felt that this was an anomalous occurrence. We don’t really see this very often. So that’s what we started targeting our samples with.

According to Porter, “re-oiling” continues to take place on Florida’s once-famous “white sand” beaches:

The next storm you have, whatever oil you have out there, it’s going to just set it right straight back on the beach here. And that’s what the people here on the panhandle are definitely worried about. …Hopefully it’s a wake up call to our government officials to say to them ‘hey look, we’re not letting this go.’

Indeed we are not. And I applaud Mr. Porter and Mr. Boatright for their relentless pursuit of the truth. Also big kudos to the joint venture – the Surfrider Foundation; EcoRigs and coastal geologist Rip Kirby – for making this project happen. We need more like it.

So the battle rages on. While BP officials argue that the Gulf has made a full recovery, and therefore, the company should no longer have to make “future loss” payments to spill victims (see link to my previous post below), researchers like Boatright, Porter and a bevy of others continue to shed light on the what’s really happening below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Please keep up the fight!

Read my previous post on fresh BP oil coming ashore here:

Hear from a Gulf fisherman who pulled up dozens of crabs with lesions off Pensacola:

Catchup on BP’s claim of a fully recovered Gulf of Mexico here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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