Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Sat Jul 30 11:47:51 EDT 2016

Readers are asking if there are any oil seeps near the Flower Gardens. 
The answer is yes. They have been known for many years and researchers 
at Texas A and M have published descriptions of them in the past. It is 
important to know that FGB exists because it sits on topography created 
by a salt dome. Most of the oil fields in that part of the gulf are 
associated with salt domes. Without the salt dome the water depth would 
be around 400 ft. and there would be no Flower Gardens. Descriptions of 
brine seeps in deep water around its base have also been published in 
the past. I recall that many researchers pointed to the presence of oil 
and gas seeps as evidence that corals are not noticeably harmed by 
natural crude oil seeps. Similar seeps occur in coral areas elsewhere in 
the world such as near Trinidad and some parts of Indonesia. In early 
experiments I immersed corals in crude oil for more than an hour and 
they were not affected. It is important to remember that oil and gas 
floats to the surface and does not stick to corals because of their 
mucus. I must admit those experiments were performed in the early 1970s 
before coral diseases became rampant.

I agree it is tragic that the Flower Gardens is experiencing symptoms 
increasingly observed on many other reefs especially those in much 
shallower warmer water. I wish we really knew what was causing this 
unprecedented event. There are calls for help on the coral list but 
clearly there is nothing we can do now except monitor the situation. If 
we knew the cause it would be different. It would be especially useful 
to know why the long-term Monitoring site has not been affected? Time 
will tell but it is likely the diseases will spread. Unfortunately 
monitoring is often like that TV commercial featuring a uniformed man 
standing in the middle of a bank robbery. He is there to monitor and 
determine if indeed a robbery is taking----not stop it.

Seems ironic that another issue brought up on the coral- list is a 
proposal to expand the FGB to include nearby areas. Other than 
preventing anchor damage and possibly controlling fishing one has to 
wonder if sanctuary status could prevent what the FGB is presently 
experiencing. Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
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E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158
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