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Monday, December 31, 2012 - 12:00pm

Oil Spill Prompts Coastal Research

Updated: 1 year ago.
Skidaway professor Richard Lee and his team are exposing the crabs and shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then watching to see how this affects their molting, which is how the creatures grow. (photo Skidaway Institute of Oceanography)

The 2010 BP oil spill is prompting research on Georgia's coast into the effects of spilled oil on blue crabs and grass shrimp.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and two other research labs are sharing a half-million dollar grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Skidaway professor Richard Lee and his team are exposing the crabs and shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then watching to see how this affects their molting, which is how the creatures grow.

"If it really affected molting in a large way, that the populations of blue crabs would affected, you have reduced catches," Lee says.

Lee says he's looking at the connections between the contamination and harvester's low catches.

"Fishing communities on the Gulf were very concerned about what the affect of the oil spill might be on their livelihoods," Lee says. "I think that's what EPA was concerned about to do the research and then to explain it to the fishing communities."

Scientists at the Universities of Maryland and Southern Mississippi are sharing the grant while a Mercer University researcher is testing tissue samples for disease-causing bacteria.

The research is part of EPA's response to the disaster that killed 11 people and fouled large swaths of the Gulf.