2 years later, fish sick at BP oil site

BARATARIA BAY, La. (AP) – When fishermen returned to the deep reefs of the Gulf of Mexico weeks after BP’s gushing oil well was capped, they started catching grouper and red snapper with large open sores and strange black streaks, lesions they said they’d never seen and promptly blamed on the spill.

Now, two years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing 11 men and touching off the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, the latest research into its effects is starting to back up those early reports from the docks: The ailing fish bear hallmarks of diseases tied to petroleum and other pollutants.

Those illnesses don’t pose an increased health threat to humans, scientists say, but they could be devastating to prized species and the people who make their living catching them.

There’s no saying for sure what’s causing the diseases in what’s still a relatively small percentage of the fish, because the scientists have no baseline data on sick fish in the Gulf before the spill to form a frame of reference. The first comprehensive research may be years from publication. And the Gulf is assaulted with all kinds of contaminants every day.

Still, it’s clear to fishermen and researchers alike that something’s amiss.

— A recent batch of test results revealed the presence of oil in the bile extracted from fish caught in August 2011, a year after BP’s broken well was capped and nearly 15 months after it first blew out on April 20, 2010.

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