gulf of mexico

The U.S. is in the middle of an oil drilling boom that few people saw coming. After decades of decline, crude oil production is rising again. Technologies such as hydraulic fracturing in places such as North Dakota are getting a lot of attention. But the Gulf of Mexico still accounts for more than one-fifth of domestic oil production.

The extent of the environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP oil disaster is largely unknown to the public; much of the data remains sealed because of litigation. But now scientists at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are shedding important new light on the subject. And the news is not good. 

Flickr, Jim Mullhaupt

Texas health authorities are expanding their warning that some people should not eat certain fish from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says high levels of mercury mean women of childbearing age and children 12 and younger should eat no amount of species, including Blackfin tuna, blue marlin, king mackerel, wahoo, shark or swordfish.

A federal judge in New Orleans has approved a $1 billion civil settlement over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill where 11 men died in April of 2010, the AP reports.

As we reported back in January, federal authorities blamed Transocean "for acting negligently when the rig's crew proceeded with maneuvers to the deep-sea well in the face of clear danger signals that oil and natural gas were flowing."

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the National Mall Sunday to encourage President Obama to make good on his commitment to act on climate change.

In his Inaugural address from outside the U.S. Capitol, the president said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Just a few weeks later, next to the Washington Monument, Paul Birkeland was one of a couple dozen people holding a long white tube above their heads.

The Carnival cruise ship Triumph docked in Mobile, Ala., late Thursday night, as the job of towing the stricken 100,000-ton ship hundreds of miles across the Gulf of Mexico took longer than expected. The ship's 3,143 passengers had coped with sewage problems and a lack of ventilation since Sunday, when the Triumph was crippled by an engine room fire.

Updated 2:15 a.m. ET Friday: All Passengers Disembarked

A spokesman for Carnival says all passengers have left the cruise ship that was stranded for days without power and running water.

More than 3,000 cruise ship passengers who thought they'd be heading home today have instead been told they'll remain in the Gulf of Mexico until Wednesday, stranded by an engine fire that set their ship, the Triumph, adrift. Onboard power and sewer system outages have been reported. The ship, which was 150 miles north of the Yucatan Peninsula when the fire struck early Sunday, has a crew of more than 1,000.

Update at 1:26 p.m. ET. No Confirmed Deaths:

The U.S. Coast Guard tells WWLTV that 11 people have been sent to hospital but no deaths have been confirmed in a oil rig fire off the coast of Louisiana.

WWLTV, KHOU and Reuters were reporting two deaths earlier.

Our Original Post Continues:

A fire on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana has killed two people, Louisiana's WWLTV is reporting.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties, the company just confirmed. And it will pay $525 million in civil penalties in a resolution with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. BP will make the payments over six years.

Fish is routinely held up as a healthy alternative to other meats. But some experts might urge you to rethink the catch-of-the-day,  because of what else might be lurking on the plate. 

The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs heard testimony this morning about the condition of the state’s seafood industry. The Catfish Institute's Jeff McCord testified that he was concerned about importing fish to Texas.

Most of the catfish found in restaurants is imported from China. McCord says China doesn’t have the same kind of regulations the U.S. does, so banned substances can easily enter the food supply. A group of chemicals called nitrofurans is on this list. Fish farmers use them to rid the water of certain microbes, but they’re mostly banned by the FDA. “It’s been shown to cause cancer,” McCord says, “and it also disrupts human cell reproduction.”

Austin Parks and Recreation Department

Less Rain is the Texas Beach-Goer’s Gain?

Turns out, there may be a positive side to the state's historic drought. Less rain means less polluted runoff – so Texas beaches are cleaner than they have been in years. It's all detailed in a report released this week by the National Resources Defense Council.

The report details the testing done on hundreds of state beaches around the nation and evaluates the levels of certain bacteria found in the water. Texas’ South Padre Island was rated one of the nation’s twelve cleanest beaches, though Nueces, Matagorda, Kleberg, Harris and Aransas beaches exceeded the daily maximum bacteria standard. 

Photo by CaliforniaDFG at

The Associated Press is reporting the investigation into an oil sheen that was spotted off the Gulf of Mexico last week. Various oil companies, including BP, are trying to figure out where the sheen came from.

An oil sheen (not the same as a spill) happens when a thin layer of oil settles on top of the water shimmering in different colors and can come from leaks or spills.

Photo courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance

When a shrimper goes out on the Gulf of Mexico for a day's work they are supposed to bring a laminated "Mayday" card in case of emergency. The card has instructions on how to call in an emergency from the sea by radio. It also includes a conversation guide printed in English and Vietnamese.