From: Anna Driver, Reuters
Published August 24, 2010 06:36 AM

NOAA Stands by "the oil is mostly gone" conclusion

Scientists aboard a U.S. research ship have started an around-the-clock search for elusive signs of oil lurking beneath the Gulf of Mexico's surface in what they jokingly call "Operation Dipstick."

As debate rages among scientists over how much oil remains in the water after BP Plc's massive oil spill, their research vessel circles above the blown-out Macondo well, some 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.


Oil is not visible on the surface around the well, but as waters reopen to fishing, many question what the crude will do to this season's fish, shrimp and oyster catch, as well as its long-term effect on marine life.

The 35-member crew of the Pisces, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on August 18 started a three-week mission to collect sea water samples and study them for hydrocarbons or depleted oxygen levels that could indicate its presence.

Last week, oceanographers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said that the oil spill left at large plume of hydrocarbons in deep waters in the Gulf, and those chemicals could be there for some time.

While the Woods Hole researchers found the plume in June, it showed that subsurface oil droplets were not being easily degraded by microbes, as some had speculated.

The head of NOAA told reporters at a briefing in Venice, Louisiana, last week that the government stands by their figures that others dispute.

"We believe those numbers remain to be the best ones that are out there," Jane Lubchenco, said, adding that the government's figures would be refined as more data becomes available.

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