Although some researchers say the damage caused by the blowout of the British Petroleum well thus far does not appear to be as bad as it could have been, marine life is still feeling the effects and it will be years before they have a handle on the long-term impact of the massive oil spill.
"We saw the short-term impacts," Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Corpus Christi, told the Houston Chronicle. "Two years later, we are starting to get information on the real cost. Oil disappeared from sight, but it did not disappear. It impacted things in the deep water."
Those impacts include blobs of oil coating deep-sea coral, ailing dolphins and an increase in skin lesions among red snapper and other commercial fish, the Chronicle said.
Researchers conceded that it was difficult to peg the oil to the Deepwater Horizon given the large volume of crude that naturally seeps into the Gulf from the sea floor, and the long-running leakage from underwater pipelines and other oil rigs over the years.
"One of the most important things is to ensure that the resources continue for long-term science and monitoring," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If we don't do that, we never will know what the consequences are."