WASHINGTON — Last year’s BP oil spill probably won’t push the troubled bluefin tuna Gulf of Mexico population over the edge as some scientists had worried, a federal analysis shows.
Of all the potential damage from the 172 million gallon spill in April 2010, scientists had been most concerned about how the oil spill would harm an already overfished species of large tuna. That’s because about one-fifth of the spawning habitat where the Gulf’s baby tuna were living was coated with oil, according to satellite records. Tuna less than a year old are most vulnerable to pollution.
An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using two different projections from computer models, says that at most, such a spill probably would result in a 4 percent reduction in future spawning of the fish, but probably far less.
Bluefish tuna is considered one of the Gulf’s signature species. A summit that begins today in Houston will examine the Gulf’s health, including the government’s restoration plans and the tuna’s fate.
“It appears so far that the impact on the larval population is relatively small,” said Clay Porch, director of sustainable fisheries for NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami.
The agency’s analysis, which was mentioned in two pages of a 114-page government update on overall tuna health released in May, is based on an assumption that 1 in 5 baby tuna was killed or unable to reproduce in the future because that’s the size of the spill in the spawning area.