Eyeless Shrimp, Clawless Crabs, & Other Nightmarish Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill

By Sarah Zhang | April 19, 2012 2:40 pm

spacing is important
Mutated shrimp from Al Jazeera’s video report

Al Jazeera‘s report on seafood in the Gulf Coast reads like a horror story: eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores, clawless crabs. Unfortunately these deformities are very real and disturbingly common two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Chemical dispersants used by BP to “clean up” the oil spill are the likely cause.

Deformities happen even in ordinary circumstances, but scientists and fishers are seeing them in unprecedented scales in Gulf marine life. For example, half the shrimp caught in a Louisiana bay lacked eye sockets, according to fishers interviewed by journalist Dahr Jamail.

“Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” [commercial fisher Tracy Kuhn] added, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.

Perhaps the most troubling line in the whole article is this: “Questions raised by Al Jazeera’s investigation remain largely unanswered.” When Jamail went knocking on doors at government and corporate offices, nobody wanted to talk. One scientist he interviews mentions the difficulty in getting funds to study the oil spill’s environmental impact. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill may be rapidly fading in our memories, but its impact on the ocean is not.

Image via Al Jazeera English

  • jeff

    Do what you can to fix this one, prevent another, and avoid irrational villainization of those that don’t deserve it.

  • justin petitt

    Blecchhk! ’nuff said.

  • Tandem

    I personally find it rather sad that we’re learning about these on a Middle Eastern website. More and more I find more quality news without the inevitable political spin about the US and Europe on Al Jazeera than I do from American news sources.

    The article makes me glad I stopped buying seafood from the Gulf of Mexico during and after the oil spill. The oil companies’ scientists said the seafood was safe to eat, yet this clearly shows something awry in the environment. I have no desire to ingest these chemicals.

  • Tom

    Looks like a politically hot potato. Happened on Obama’s watch and the Republicans dare not offend the oil companies.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.

    full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size – then they aren’t full grown.

    they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals – says who? An edumicated (sic) person or some good ole boy?

    Please don’t sensationalize your science magazine with truthiness.

    Truthiness – [Stephen Cobert] – Having the perception of being truthful. Coined during the GW Bush administration.

  • Chris

    @ Tandem, i totally agree with you, i find that Al Jazeera is a much more reliable new source than any of the main stream media. I.E. fox cannot say ron paul
    @Iain you sure sound like a troll, but ill bite to an extent.
    full grown crabs that are 1/5 their normal size, to which you say they are not full grown… so using your line of reasoning people with dwarfism are just toddlers?
    and as far as the spikes looking like they have been burned of with chemicals… the key word in that sentence is “looks”. this is an insight on a visual that have been noted about some of the crabs. they did not say “what seems to be” or “is caused by” they were just reporting the situation and described what it looked like, not stated for sure that is what happened. if i say man it looks like ‘john’ has a cold. it doesn’t not mean i know for 100% certain that john has a cold, but rather from what i was able to visual percieve, john LOOKS like he has a cold, just like it looks like Iain has a lower iq than most people, i can’t say for certain, but it is the way it appears.

  • john

    If you bought some of any normal or abnormal design, send it all to me.Yesterday found a fairly large onyx black pearl in an oyster harvested just 45 minutes prior in marshes of ESE Louisiana. It, the oyster (rather large, I’d say) was delicious.

  • John

    The Prince William Sound was never properly cleaned up. Oil is still there beneath the surface. Exxon appealed and appealed and appealed the original settlement and got it down to $507 million. The original settlement was $5 billion. This BP incident is going to get the same treatment. Some people wonder why we don’t trust the oil companies. The reason is that you cannot trust the oil companies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/natcapello Natalia Capello

    Here in Brazil we are very close to that reality, due to several environmental disasters involving oil companies, the event occurred in the Campos Basin with U.S. oil … Unfortunately, our marine biodiversity runs the same risk, genetic mutation and a possible lack of seafood. Excessive greed promises an uncertain future.

  • scott

    Iain – cool, way to just jump and defend the oil company like a good right winger, immediate to discredit andything green, or environmental.

    I know some conservative good old boys along the coast, and am pleased to say that they know they were lied to and screwed by the oil companies and know when fed a line of BS. But sadly, they still wont make the vote to get things really cleaned up – that is, voting in a “liberal” who will fight for such things, if one exists – as we have seen with Obama, he can be just as much in bed with big business and oil as a right winger.

    Most people are too short sighted to really think about how this might affect them.

  • floodmouse

    Many of the people reading this story in horror will calmly get up, walk out their front doors, and hop into their SUVs for a half-hour commute to the office. I find it amazing that intelligent adults can perceive cause and effect relationships, know they are contributing to the cause, yet still fail to alter their behavior. Reliance on petroleum is the cause, and oil spills causing mass death and mutilation in the ocean are the effect – yet the same people complaining continue to drive those SUVs. Some time ago, I switched to a bicycle commute and I will never look back.

    – “The snowflake never feels responsible for the avalanche.”

  • P Benson

    Clearly some deformed marine life is going to manifest itself. Hardly surprising. But Al Jazeera is implying that such deformities are on an epic scale in the Gulf which obviously is not the case. Were it so this would have been headline news globally with a lot of independent concerned scientists getting in on the act and reporting their finds. The FDA would no doubt be taking a keen interest too, but so far nothing on their website about this. Suffice it to say this report is largely scaremongering. And why would a ME rag like Al Jazeera be taking such an interest? No agenda of course.

  • GuruOfChem

    @ Floodmouse – OK, sport, how much plastic is on that bike of yours? How many petroleum-based products do you still have in your house? Would you know them if you saw them, and what are you doing to cut that oil demand out? Yes, we are overly dependent on oil for transportation, and it just warms the cockles of my heart to know that you live in an area where a bicycle commute is feasible, and have a job close enough to where you live to enjoy that option. Most people don’t, and sanctimoniously holding up your lifestyle as a model undermines what merit your message does have. And before anyone jumps to conclusions based on my handle, I’m a teacher, not a shill for a chemical or petroleum company.

  • Meicy

    It is a rarity to have anyone willing to discuss the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and I applaud you for your post.

    In many places even the oil on shore was not properly cleaned, just buried, and I do believe that the dangers caused by the dispersants has been greatly downplayed.

    One of the most troubling instructions concerning the safety of Gulf seafood was the direction to smell the fish (once caught) to ensure that they had not come in contact with the chemical dispersants. This might seem like a reasonable instruction, had those giving the instructions not also touted the fact that the dispersant was odorless.

    Not only were there severe ramifications for the local and Gulf wildlife, but also for the human population as well. I do not have the hard evidence, but anecdotal evidence suggests a spike in respiratory illnesses in the months after the oil spill.

    It is a shame that the instinct of those in charge seems to be to distract and send conflicting reports. It is unfortunate that research funding (both governmental and private) is difficult to come by in order to study the effects of this catastrophe. And more than that, it is terrifying that so few people are willing to discuss the issues at hand.

    Thank you again for your blog post, and I hope that if you are able to find more information you will share it here with us.

  • Cathy

    The UGA Marine Sciences department has been trying to study this but hasn’t had the money due to all the budget cuts for the university system AGAIN this year. Thanks, Gov Nathan Deal.

  • John Lerch

    Hey GuruOfChem. No one said that alternatives don’t use resources to create the alternative. The only question (so obvious to all but the biased that they frequently don’t know how to phrase it) is: does it continue to use excess resources? So since you don’t know how to reason, I’ll lay it out for you. The bike that uses plastics doesn’t continue to waste resources (and indeed creates the resource of health); the SUV doesn’t have to be that big and continues to use up excess resources (AKA waste) even more than a reasonable sized auto.

  • http://craigpittman.com Craig Pittman

    This blog post makes it sound like only Al Jazeera is covering the oil spill’s continuing aftermath, and that is simply not true. News organizations all across the gulf coast, from Florida to Texas, are still pursuing it too, and filing stories such as this one: http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/article1225134.ece

  • coryy

    @floodmouse:I would love to know how I’m supposed to carry around 3 kids and bookbags plus my own, on a bike, in winter, when a normal winter gives us 106 of snow? when three kids have to be at 3 different schools (because of age differences, not private schools), within the same hour, all miles apart? And don’t forget the river valley, i’m sure that mile uphill would work off my extra weight in no time…if it weren’t for the broken pelvis that’s still healing and my inability to bear my weight on a bike seat.

    Back to the oil spill …anybody see Rachel Maddow discussing this tonight? The complete lack of ANY action on the part of congress to ensure that we can clean up any of these messes? The lack of any progress whatsoever in ways to clean up oil? It’s unbelievable that there has been no new technology, no advances in ways to clean up spills, despite the gulf oil spill being so recent and compelling a reason to push for developing new ways to prevent and treat this sort of thing. There is very little money in it and no legislative requirement, so it just isn’t happening.

  • screw this

    Enough is enough, BOYCOTT BP!

  • Dave G

    I’m surprised nobody has tried to tell us that it is ‘God’s will’ – or an experiment in intelligent design … mutation = an experiment in evolution. For all the millions of deformed crustacea, I bet there are at least one or two that are now better designed … by accident.

  • KieranKardKompany

    well, well, well
    what do i have here
    these sea creatures are turning black…

  • doris123

    Floodmouse is right, we are all a part of this machine. Expecting to have 3 kids, expecting to drive a car, expecting and feeling entitled is a sickness of our culture. Do what you can to liberate yourself and your family from the expectations our culture has imposed on us. Read Derrick Jensen. He speaks the truth.

  • Lou

    Paul Stamets, if you have heard of him, or have seen him on the TED talks, has come up with a remarkable way to help curb some of the destruction caused by the oil spill, atleast for the damage the oil has done to the terrestrial life. Using mushrooms and fungi, they can absorb the oil while at the same time creating new life. This is just picking off the top of my head, it was something I watched last year. I am by no means a scientist, an educator of any sort, nor am I a strong writer, so I wont fool you people being pretentious, im merely a 24 year old kid, interested in our world and enviornment and anything to do with science, I just wish i was better educated.

  • Lou

    God forbid our own country would ever report on something scientific that could have debilitating effects on our future. I swear, they dont want people to know anything and its terrible. Now I need to get my news from outside and potentially less credible sources, not saying that Al Zaheer or w/e is any less credible than right winged fox news..but this isnt a political topic. What ever happened to real journalism?

  • Lou

    But these consequences of our own human error and actions are the reasons why we need to look to alternative energy sources, as well as look forward to preserving the enviornment for future generations. Theres already astronomical amounts of overfishing throughout the world, and 90% of the big fish that once existed in the waters are gone. Now that fishing in the Gulf has been affected, it will negatively impact fishing in other waters around the globe.

  • Jeanne

    I have seen documentaries over the last decade filming what many fishermen have been hoisting up in their nets that look pretty scary. Crabs with cancers growing through their shells, etc. It’s been going on for a long time. Those documentaries claim it is from the polluted waters that cause these deformities and cancers. Phosphates from fertilizers, for one thing, are a serious threat that has not been exposed enough.

  • Penny Welker

    Hey flood mouse I guess if you live and work where you can ride your bike to work I am guessing it is in a big city. Well I work for myself, thank God, and I have to drive a bid truck. But on there other hand I live Ina rural setting, have a large green yard, with large green trees, and grow a large green garden every year. What are you doing to erase your so-called foot print on this earth?


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