US despatches top fishing scientist to Gulf –

US despatches top fishing scientist to Gulf Published:  13 May, 2010

THE United States is despatching one of its top fishing scientists to the Gulf of Mexico to establish just how serious the oil spill is to the region’s fish stocks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  says it wants to rapidly assess and test report findings about the risks posed to fish not just from contaminates from the BP oil spill, but also from chemicals used in the clean-up operation.

Nancy Thompson, the highly respected director of the NOAA ‘s Fisheries Science Centre, will working with other scientists, monitoring and assessing  the spill’s effects on important species in the Gulf  following growing concerns by fishermen and seafood processing firms. Fishing has been banned in a wide area of the Gulf, following the spill.

The rapid-response testing involves chemical analysis of water samples and chemical and sensory analysis of fish and shellfish. These will be compared with samples taken immediately following the spill and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Scientists will also compare actual or projected locations of contaminants with normal locations of fish in the Gulf.  There will also be continuing aerial surveys to monitor the location of marine mammals and sea turtles and by collecting fish and shellfish samples for contaminant analysis.

The NOAA  says it will use test results and analysis in making decisions about where and how fishing should be curtailed in the region affected by the BP oil spill, and about whether seafood is safe for consumption. The NOAA system will be coordinated with other agencies active in the response, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.