Big Oil’s Heartbreaking Effect on Tuna
By Michael Schweibinz
When you think about luxury seafood, tuna doesn’t typically make the list, does it? But soon enough, the finfish could be a rare treat. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill appears to have had lasting and significant effects on marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
After the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, its “oil gusher” released crude oil for the next 87 days. Eventually, British Petroleum was able to cap the leak on the ocean floor, but not before huge damage was done.
At the Tuna Research Conservation Center in Pacific Grove, California, scientists soaked heart tissue from captive tuna into crude oil. Then, they compared their findings to that of tuna exposed to the influences of Deepwater Horizon. The results were unfortunately similar, and equally as disturbing.
Stanford professor of marine sciences, Barbara Block, explains the observation: “The ability of a heart cell to beat depends on its capacity to move essential ions like potassium and calcium into and out of the cells quickly.” The studies have “cracked a cellular biology mystery underlying a harmful effect oil spills have on fish; irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest.” From fishing fleets to oil induced heart attacks, the future of the bluefish tuna population appears rather bleak.
Not only is this issue related to full grown, adult tuna, but those newly born as well. The Deepwater Horizon explosion coincided with the tuna-breeding season; as a result, large amounts of oil were able to penetrate the weak embryos of tuna eggs. This will cause health issues for tuna in the area for generations. Not only does this cause a shortage of tuna supply, but raises the question of whether it is safe for humans (where crude oil contact with the heart would have the same effect) to consume tuna from afflicted areas.
It is unfortunate that corporate budget cuts and faulty equipment led to a disaster with such negative ripple effects on surrounding environment, communities, and industries. Due to irresponsibility by some, will tuna fishermen lose their jobs and livelihoods? The nature of business should drive us to not only protect our self-interests, but those of our neighbors as well.
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Posted: April 16, 2014