~It’s funny when one thinks about public perception, journalism, and pictures of disasters over the history of time. LIFE magazine and National Geographic used to do gruesome pictorials of dead bodies in whatever was the tragedy of the moment…I guess we got used to seeing dead bodies over the years; but I’m also guessing that masses of dead WHALES… well …that would be a whole different matter altogether…
Were we too focused on the amount of oil being leaked? I think that was the whole idea…
Firsthand accounts and leaked photos of a secret BP processing facility — possibly for dead animals — point to a massive cover-up in the Gulf. An exclusive report.
June 10th was a strange day. In a surprising move, the Coast Guard instituted a dramatic expansion of the “no-fly” zone over the Gulf, preventing major media outlets like the New York Times and even scientists with top government clearance from accessing the area. This caused a wave of journalistic uproar and bewilderment on the part of researchers like Edward E. Clark of the Wildlife Center (above) who had been invited to study the impacts just prior to the media blackout.
More distressing than the media blackout itself was a lingering question in my mind … what on earth could be so BAD that the U.S. government would risk losing credibility in the minds of journalists, the scientific community and the general public to ensure concealment? Was the sea floor cracking? Was a giant cloud of benzene going to wipe out the Eastern Seaboard? Had Godzilla emerged from the sea to wreak havoc upon us all? One thing was clear … we weren’t getting the story.
Since no one has yet been able to get this individual to go on record (and the Facebook post was eventually taken down) this can’t be taken as hard evidence, but it does beg the question … just how many animals have died because of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
According to the latest count of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Daily Collection Report (PDF), only about 4,100 birds, 670 turtles,70 sea mammals, and 1snake have died in the Gulf since April 20 (assuming 50 percent mortality of live animals).
It’s an astonishingly low number, considering that one of the largest pods of sperm whales in the U.S. resided just miles from the site of the BP Macondo well (aka Deepwater Horizon), a region home to one of the most abundant and biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world.
Compare those small numbers with the Exxon Valdez spill … Best estimates put the toll of the far smaller oil spill in Alaska at more than 200,000 birds (including hundreds of eagles), more than 3,000 sea mammals, more than 20 whales, and billions of fish eggs. The accident permanently wiped out the herring population of this Alaskan Gulf region. And that was an accident 1/10th the size of the Deepwater Horizon.
The final tally of the BP oil spill is almost 5 million barrels of crude, compared to only about 500,000 barrels for Exxon Valdez — a 1:10 ratio. Yes the Alaska spill happened closer inland, but the oil was not fully integrated with the water column as in the BP gusher (a far more pervasive and deadly scenario) and neither were thousands of tons of highly toxic dispersants like Corexit, a chemical that has, ironically, been banned in Britain because of its impacts on wildlife and human health.
One would be forgiven then for assuming there should be a far greater body count than what is
currently being reported by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the same government office that famously blocked Anderson Cooper from peering
past the 10′ high barricades that had been put up to enclose a “bird receiving” area. According to the math, the count should be in the
hundreds of thousands of dead birds, tens of thousands of sea mammals, and millions upon millions of fish and shellfish. So where were all the dead bodies?
We should be seeing something like the mass dolphin kill off the coast of Zanzibar (left) that resulted from a much smaller offshore oil leak.
Is it possible that a massive cleanup operation in early June was focused on collecting dead animals out at sea in naturally forming “death gyres?” According to marine toxicologist Riki Ott, suchgyres of dead and dying animals were common for weeks after the Exxon Valdez spill. And we know that BP was doing everything in its power to keep dead animal photographs out of the press. Kate Sheppard and Mac Mclelland of Mother Jones documented several instances of BP actually barring photography of dead animals on public beaches.