[Coral-List] Panama oil spill study

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Tue May 4 09:24:25 EDT 2010

Yes, the Panama study of oil effects was the largest most expensive 
study of oil effects of its kind. I heard much about it from 
representatives of the agency that funded the study. One aspect of 
the study not fully  appreciated when the 1989 Science article that 
described results of the 1986 spill was published was that  the 
Caribbean-wide coral disease episode had stepped up dramatically 
between 1983 and 84. Bleaching would follow in 1986 and 1987. In 
retrospect one can safely speculate that much of the documented 
coral, and Diadema demise, as well as seafan disease, would have 
happened in Panama even if there had been no oil spill. With 20 20 
hindsight one has to wonder how much of the coral demise at Panama 
was actually caused by the spill? In fact, disease was already 
showing up in un oiled control areas in Panama according to personal 
communications with some of the representatives of the agency that 
funded the study.
     The reef at Goleta point is an enigma. I visited the reef with 
Harold Hudson in 1974 to examine Ian MacIntyre's coring rig while he 
was doing his ground breaking study with Peter Glynn. The weather was 
beautiful, the water was warm, and there was the full compliment of 
Atlantic corals on the basically Acropora palmata reef, but water 
visibility was limited to about 30 feet. When we asked researchers at 
the laboratory about the poor water visibility we were told that what 
we saw was as good as it gets, and that during the monsoon season the 
water looks like coffee with cream! We were told, "The water gets so 
murky that experimental settling plates on the reef were coded with a 
braille system so that divers could distinguish one panel from 
another." Surprisingly the corals appeared healthy. That was 1974 
before the beginning of serious and ongoing coral diseases affecting 
corals throughout the Caribbean.  Gene

No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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