Following a widely publicized April 2010 explosion on an oil rig, millions of barrels of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over a three month period. As a result, BP and Transocean Limited, the company that operated the rig, face hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits. At present, these suits mostly allege property damage and lost profits. But what can we expect from the future?
The answer may be mutant seafood.
According to an investigation by al-Jazeera, fishermen, scientists, and seafood processors are reporting sightings of mutated sea creatures, including eyeless shrimp, clawless crabs, and baby shrimp attached to their mother’s backs. The dispersants used by BP to contain the spilled oil, such as petroleum distillates, are known to be mutagenic. Because the life cycles of shrimp are so short, they have already gone through two or three generations since the spill, allowing time for the chemicals to mutate the genomes. While these helpless creatures lack standing to bring claims for their deformities, these mutations may lead to more serious effects in humans.
Dr. Andrew Whitehead, a professor of biology at Louisiana State University, predicts that the impact on killifish (i.e. shrimp) is “more than likely going to propagate out and affect other species . . . a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences.” Eyeless humans? People with missing limbs? Who knows? We here at Abnormal Use have read enough comic books to find it plausible.
It’s too soon to fear that the mutated shrimp will create Zombieland-like conditions. The threat of some ill-effects is there nonetheless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that much can be done to stop it. According to biological oceanographer, Ed Cake, it will be decades until the Gulf returns to pre-spill position
While we can’t predict the magnitude of this situation, it is one that needs to be monitored. The Gulf produces a large portion of America’s seafood. Any negative effects from seafood could lead to potential claims against restaurants, producers, and fisherman, possibly up the chain to BP itself. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, be sure to ask your server whether your fish had eyes before eating them. Or before they eat you.