Texas Oil Spill Contaminates Gulf Shrimp

An oil tanker collision in Galveston Bay is effecting shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, and may have lasting devastation for up to a decade. About 186,000 gallons, or 4,000 barrels, of fuel oil spilled into the Gulf on Saturday, March 22. The spill is particularly harmful to shrimp in the area, and already impacting commercial supplies.


Photo courtesy AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, PO3 Manda Emery.

At least one fisherman has reported an entire catch of shrimp coated in thick, tar-like oil. Researchers are warning that this may only be the beginning of the devastation. With spawning season underway, millions of shrimp larvae are floating from the Gulf of Mexico through Galveston Bay to inland marshes. Larval shrimp that come into contact with the oil are particularly susceptible to long-term impacts that will limit their lifespan. Although they may not appear to be contaminated, shrimp that have been exposed to the oil could have impacts further up the food chain, including on people.


Image courtesy http://www.khou.com/news.

Shortly after the spill, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued an advisory against eating seafood caught within the Galveston Bay area. Health concerns regarding affected shrimp won’t be fully understood until larval shrimp mature and can be tested by researchers.

With both juvenile and adult shrimp at risk for contamination, impacts on the area’s shrimp fishery may be long lasting. Many seafood business owners have reported a noticeable decline in shrimp purchases since the spill. Although shrimp further out in the Gulf of Mexico may not be contaminated by the oil, access to much of the bay was cut off shortly after the spill making it difficult for fishermen to reach the unpolluted waters.


Satija, Nina. “Oil Spill Threatens Galveston Bay’s Fishing Industry.” The Texas Tribune. March 26, 2014. Web. April 2014.

Valentine, Katie. “Texas Oil Spill Is Killing Birds, Threatening Fishing Industry.”