Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.
Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange phenomena.
Fish and other wildlife seem to be fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast in a trend that some researchers see as a potentially troubling sign.
The animals’ presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.
"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.
The nearly two-month-old oil spill has created an environmental catastrophe unparalleled in US history as tens of millions of gallons of have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Scientists are seeing some unusual things as they try to understand the effects on thousands of species of marine life.
For nearly four hours Monday, a three-person crew with Greenpeace cruised past delicate islands and mangrove-dotted inlets in Barataria Bay off southern Louisiana. They saw dolphins by the dozen frolicking in the oily sheen and oil-tinged pelicans feeding their young. But they spotted no dead animals.
"I think part of the reason why we’re not seeing more yet is that the impacts of this crisis are really just beginning," Greenpeace marine biologist John Hocevar said.
The counting of dead wildlife in the Gulf is more than an academic exercise; the deaths will help determine how much BP pays in damages.
As for the fish, researchers are still trying to determine where exactly they are migrating to understand the full scope of the disaster, and no scientific consensus has emerged about the trend.
die-off：a sudden, natural perishing of large numbers of a species, population, or community（相继死去）
frolic：to gambol merrily; to play in a frisky, light-spirited manner; romp（嬉戏，嬉闹）