Ten Years Later: LSU Biological Sciences Professor Reflects on Gulf of Mexico Fishes Put At Risk by 2010 Oil Spill

March 14, 2024

An explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. The devastating environmental disaster killed 11 crewmen while releasing nearly 5 million barrels of oil about 62 miles from Louisiana's coast. Ten years later, research remains top of mind for Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty and others looking into which fish species may have been the most impacted.


Research shows that 1,541 fish species are known from the Gulf of Mexico region, and 78 are endemic to the Gulf. Five years post-spill, Chakrabarty said 48 of the Gulf’s endemic fish species had not been collected. Now, with expanded methods ten years post-spill, 29 of the 78 endemic species have not been reported in collections since 2010.


"That's what the spill taught us," said Chakrabarty. "That there's lots that we don't know about the region, and it opened our eyes to how much we have to learn about what's out there."


Chakrabarty is the George H. Lowery Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Curator of Fishes at the Museum of Natural Science at LSU. The New Yorker said he soon felt like a Louisianian after experiencing the oil spill that happened so close to home. His heart for the region made him want to dive head first to look at what species were in the region of the spill.

"The hope is that with time, these things will be rediscovered, or we'll learn more about them, but currently, that's the best we can say with what we have," said Chakrabarty.

Gulf of Mexico fish

Photo credit: Eddy Perez

Lead author Prosanta Chakrabarty in the fish collections of the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science where many specimens from the Gulf of Mexico are housed.


You can learn more about the ten-year update here.


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