NEW ORLEANS — Federal scientists say they have dated coral living near the site of the busted
The US Geological Survey said Wednesday that it had determined the age of the black coral in the gulf for the first time. Scientists had been studying the ancient slow-growing corals before BP’s well blew out last April. The corals were found about 21 miles northeast of the well living 1,000 feet below the gulf’s surface.
“There are big questions about their vulnerability and their ability for recovery,’’ said agency scientist Nancy Prouty.
Black corals feed on organic matter sinking to the sea floor, and it could take decades, or even centuries, to recover from a disturbance, Prouty said.
She said scientists were looking at whether the coral had been damaged by the BP oil spill, but the damage assessment had not been completed.
The location of the black coral is important because computer models and research cruises have mapped much of the deepwater oil moving to the southwest of the BP well, away from the black coral colony.