Washington, DC – A recent report by the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center (a collaboration between the federal government and BP) claiming that only 25 percent of spilled oil remains in the Gulf has been refuted by researchers with the Georgia Sea Grant and University of Georgia, who released a report yesterday concluding that in fact nearly 80 percent of the oil remains in the Gulf. The report confirms the fact that the federal government should have taken a more cautious and responsible approach to testing marine life before opening the Gulf for fishing.
The report affirms what many have thought: that the oil could not have realistically vanished like ‘sugar dissolves into water’ — a ludicrous statement the federal officials used to describe what happened to the millions of gallons spilled into the Gulf.
This independent analysis of the regulators’ claims raises some important questions about the Joint Information Center’s report. Is BP’s influence at play in presenting the findings in a more positive light? Was the report an attempt at crisis communications that simply backfired?
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The FDA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are the two regulatory agencies charged with protecting consumer health after the spill. NOAA is one of the many federal agencies involved in BP’s Joint Information Center. Unfortunately, these agencies have been anything but forthcoming and transparent in notifying consumers and the Gulf fishing communities about safety concerns resulting from the spill.
Every day that the Gulf is closed to fishermen is a day BP must pay out additional claims to them. Is this why regulators opened the Gulf for commercial fishing, despite warnings from fishermen and documented cases of oil in marine life? Unfortunately, this hasty decision is currently jeopardizing not only consumers but the future reputation of the Gulf fishing industry.
Prematurely opening the Gulf is not the only incidence of poor decision making. Rather than employ careful microbiological testing of seafood, the federal agencies continue to predominantly use sniff tests to determine the presence of oil. And instead of immediately testing seafood for contamination by Corexit, the controversial dispersant banned in Europe but used widely in the Gulf by BP, they feed the media a vague date for future testing.
At this point, it appears that FDA and NOAA oversight is as lacking as the Minerals Management Service’s ’oversight’ that led to the initial Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.
Ultimately, it is this regulatory negligence that would be responsible for any widespread consumer illness resulting from the unprecedented effects of oil and dispersant on the Gulf and its marine life – effects that would go undetected due to poor testing regimes.
In order to restore the public’s trust, NOAA and the FDA must perform more comprehensive and timely tests and present us with reliable and unbiased findings rather than continue in their attempt to sweep millions of barrels of oil and controversial dispersants under the proverbial rug. The Gulf should not have been opened for fishing until this occurred.