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Today (April 20, 2020) marks the 10th year since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 5 million barrels of hydrocarbons (oil) spilled into the Gulf for 87 days following the explosion, and since then, DEEPEND (along with several other consortia) have been researching the effects that the oil spill had on the Gulf’s entire ecosystem. Oil reached the seafloor, the open-ocean water column, coastal areas, continental shelf regions, and even was found in marshes and estuaries. “It was an entire Gulf of Mexico-wide event,” Dr. Tracey Sutton said in an interview with Oceana.

Often, people remember the oil that was visible at the surface; however, it’s important to know that 100% of the oil occurred within the water column and affected life throughout the entire ecosystem, especially in the poorly-studied deep pelagic environment ( > 200 m depth) where the Macondo wellhead broke (~1500 m depth).

“As far as we know, the actual impact of the spill is not over yet,” Dr. Tracey Sutton explained in Oceana’s interview.

In another interview with the Independent, Dr. Sutton stated, “In 2017, we were still finding oil contaminants in the eggs [of deep-sea organisms] above levels known to be sublethal for animals. We also saw an overall decline in animal numbers.”

With industry drilling deeper for resources, the risk of another spill occurring increases. Dr. Sutton told the Independent, “another deepwater spill is still very much a real possibility.”

Photo by: U.S. Coast Guard—Reuters/Landov