Oil Spells Big Trouble for Little Fish

CNN reported this week that a small, recently-discovered deep-water fish may be on the verge of extinction as a result of the oil spill.  The Louisiana pancake batfish (Halieutichthys aculeatus) lives on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 1500 feet.  Interestingly, this little guy is in the same family as the deep-sea angler fish (the scary ones with the lights on their heads and HUGE teeth…watch Finding Nemo!)

Because the Louisiana pancake batfish lives on the bottom of the sea, the oil slick on the surface poses no direct danger.  However, these fish feed on floating invertebrates and plankton: if this food source is covered in oil (many species of plankton swim to the surface at night then return to depth during the day), the Louisiana pancake batfish is real danger.

Many would read this and go: Who cares?!  It’s just a little fish that we didn’t even know was there until a few years ago!  But here’s the thing: Firstly, this fish is a vital member of a highly complex and intricate food web: think about it like a game of Jenga.  The entire ecosystem is the tower, with all the different species (each piece) creating a stable structure.  Let’s say, for arguments sake AND because it is most likely going to happen, that the Louisiana pancake batfish goes extinct.  That is one block now removed from the tower.  This is probably not enough to make the tower collapse, but keep going…

Down the line another species goes extinct as a result of this spill.  Take out another block.  Then another, and another.  Eventually, that tower is gonna fall.  And when it does, we are all in BIG trouble!

And yes, it may start with a small, seemingly insignificant deep-water fish.  But this is not the first time: there have been casualties before. Does Chernobyl or the Exxon Valdez ring any bells?  And this most certainly will not be the last time something like this happens, IF we continue down this path towards self-destruction.  Instead we need to start thinking outside the box, encouraging creativity, and embracing change rather than rebelling against it.  The dark ages of oil are over: the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be!

3 Responses to “Oil Spells Big Trouble for Little Fish”

  1. The question floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico challenging the entire world is, ‘What are you learning?’

    The spill brings us face to face with issues that are deeper than the mainstream media understands how to follow. The consideration of the food chain scenario, above, is just one entry point into the humbling reality that nature is so much more intelligent, complex, and connected than we allow ourselves to admit that we do not know much at all about how to truly interact with her.
    And, do we feel the 5,000 barrels/day, or is it 60,000 barrels, or 100,000 barrels; will this all just stay conveniently away from other water regions? Just how much denial can you swallow? The planetary movements of the ocean currents will carry this level of toxic releases that we have dug up from its intended place, out of harms way, throughout the entire North Atlantic. As the public comes to consider this, gradually seeping like the oil into our awareness; how will you trust the safety of any wild fish from the entire North Atlantic? What agency will you trust to feed fish from these regions to your children? No need to wait for some atomic bomb or other drama to alert us to the changes necessary.
    Yet, as we all sense, the media cameras will all too soon move on. And, as with the Exxon Valdez spill before this, all efforts will be to return to business as usual.
    Where is the rage? Why aren’t fishermen, and students, and chefs, and environmentalists, and mothers, and hotel owners, and beachcomers, and surfers, and seafood lovers all marching in the streets??? Is this not bad enough a disaster? Do we need to see more pain to exercise our new muscles to take us toward a more secure and healthy future? If we value our Natural Resources as the national economic security issues that they really are; this would be a Department of Defense and Homeland Security matter that would dwarf “9/11”!

  2. K. Kaz says:

    I am a mother and a fish consumer and I AM angry! Now what do I do??!! Who can I call? Who can I complain to? I think more people have not responded because they don’t know what to do next.

  3. opit says:

    “Dwarf 9/11” Too true. Things are crazy enough there is talk of nuking methane crystals that explode at 60F : and there would be an amount proportionate to a humungous oil reservoir that has too much of it around the base for a cement casing to be dropped over it. This for the deepest hole on the planet drilled to a depth greater than the Mariana Trench.
    I put together some sources from an enviro site I frequent to help get some context to discussion.

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