Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Gulf journal: Whale research group a ‘voice from the sea’

Docked in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a 93-foot vessel that’s circumnavigated the world doing whale research. For three laborious weeks, volunteer Jim Casey helped make sure the Odyssey was ready for its mission to explore marine life in the oily Gulf of Mexico.

 

Casey put in hard work painting and refitting the boat for its lengthy voyage down the coast of New England to the Gulf of Mexico. The self-described amateur filmmaker captured the crew’s preparations and brought this story to light on CNN iReport.

 

The Gloucester native volunteered with Ocean Alliance, a nonprofit group of whale and marine researchers. His hometown is the oldest seaport in the U.S. and has a rich maritime history steeped in its fishing industry. These days, that industry is dying and locals such as Casey are turning to whale research groups instead.

 

“It was really a privilege to be part of something,” he said. “Everybody’s so appalled about what’s happening in the Gulf. Just to be able to do something is the little way I can contribute.”

 

Once the Odyssey sailed off into the high seas on July 5, Casey bid the vessel adieu and followed the Odyssey researchers’ work from afar.

 

Ocean Alliance and the University of Southern Maine will be studying the Gulf’s marine life for the next three months. The group of ten would like to observe whales and grow cell lines to see how species react to various toxins in the Gulf. All of this is taking place aboard the Odyssey, the only cell-line laboratory at sea in the world, according to Ocean Alliance.

 

The group aims to be a “voice from the sea,” says Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr. He says the team wants to contribute independent research and analysis about this environmental disaster.

 

As the Odyssey makes its way to the Gulf, scientists are collecting samples along the way so they have a basis of what marine life is like now, just in case the oil creeps up the Atlantic Coast.

 

When it comes to sampling, the group will be catching fish, trolling for plankton and biopsying whales. A specially designed biopsy dart is the secret to gathering whale tissue. Once fired from a crossbow, the dart skims the whale and removes a tissue sample the size of a pencil eraser. These mammals the size of school buses usually don’t flinch, and Kerr insists the procedure doesn’t hurt.

 

These samples will then be grown in petri dishes, where researchers will expose the cells to contaminants. Kerr says it will take years of sampling and testing on return trips to determine the full effects of the oil disaster.

 

The Odyssey is set to reach Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this weekend to pick up more supplies before cruising to Mobile, Alabama. Kerr will only be on the boat intermittently, as his CEO duties and paperwork often bring him ashore. As for Casey, he’s been reading the ship’s logs online and calling the ship’s captain to make sure everything’s going according to plan.

 

Editor's Note: This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Gulf Coast residents and visitors directly affected by the oil disaster. If you'd like to share your story, you can upload photos and videos to CNN iReport.

9 Comments
July 28, 2010
Click to view SeaShepard's profile

Been following your mission... Full speed ahead... Fight the other good whale war...

Godspeed Odyssey!

July 28, 2010
Click to view NightShadow1's profile

So wait you mean to tell me you dont need a whole whale specimen to study whales? or is the biopsy dart the japanese use just alittle bigger and more powerful?

July 28, 2010
Click to view Kado's profile

So, when will a mobile unit be dispatched to biopsy the gulf PEOPLE?

July 28, 2010
Click to view mohiuddin's profile

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July 30, 2010
Click to view noreporter's profile

I am dissapointed that none of major news or cable news are talking or up in arms about BP taking 10 billion US$ in tax breaks  for  gulf dissaster recovery costs in their recent quarter report.

Its in wallstreet news allover.

========

BP taking $10 billion tax credit from spill

4:31p ET July 27, 2010 (MarketWatch)

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- BP Plc will reduce its contribution to U.S. coffers by roughly $10 billion due to a tax credit the company is claiming it incurred from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The oil giant said Tuesday that it is incurring a charge of $32.2 billion from the Deepwater Horizon disaster response, and as such, it is claiming a $9.9 billion taxation credit.

Asked in a conference call Tuesday about whether it has discussed the tax credit with President Barack Obama's administration, BP's outgoing chief executive, Tony Hayward said: "We have followed the IRS regulations as they're currently written."

The Internal Revenue Service said it's not allowed under federal law to discuss individual taxpayer issues.

But the issue has raised red flags among federal officials, particularly in light of recent efforts by various other entities that have settled with the United States.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the following in a briefing with reporters: "I don't think anybody would prefer that BP do that." Gibbs, however, did not say whether Obama would discuss the issue with BP.

One notable example of a company that decided to forgo a deduction is Goldman Sachs Group Inc. , which agreed last month not to write off $535 million in penalties as part of its settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC had sued Goldman Sachs, alleging that it hid critical information from investors in its mortgage securities.

 

SEC officials had come under fire from Congress for previously allowing tax deductions from penalties in other cases.

 

Analyst Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co. called the tax credit the result of "straightforward costs related to operation."

 

But at least one Democratic lawmaker, U.S. Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, chairman of the committee on transportation and infrastructure, is appalled. "BP's decision to claim a nearly $10 billion tax credit stemming from costs it incurred during the oil spill cleanup is nothing short of reprehensible," he said in a statement.

"At a time when the Gulf Coast is reeling from this catastrophic economic and environmental disaster, the last thing the region needs is for BP to substantially offset the amount it is paying to meet its responsibilities for cleanup and compensating victims," Oberstar added.

Another wrinkle in this situation, though, is that it appears no other entity in hot water with the U.S. government has incurred costs on a similar scale as BP. The company has agreed to put $20 billion in an escrow account to pay claims for oil-spill damages.

 

A goof?

 

But half of that may now come out of government coffers, and it could prove to be embarrassing for the Obama administration, presuming the president and Hayward did not discuss the issue at their recent meeting, according to David Desser, managing director of Juris Capital, which invests in corporate litigation. It was after that meeting that Hayward announced the $20 billion escrow fund.

 

"You would have thought in advance of that meeting, they would have thought of all of those issues," Desser said. "How do you unring that bell?"

 

"It looks to me like maybe the administration goofed here," he added.

 

Robert Yetman, associate professor for the University of California at Davis Graduate School of Management, said the critical question is whether the discussion between Obama and Hayward constitutes a "settlement."

 

In the Goldman Sachs case, the company was sued by the SEC, but no formal legal action has yet been taken by the federal government against BP. Goldman Sachs agreed to forgo any deduction for which it was eligible, but had the case run its course, any fine or penalty incurred would not be deductible.

Another key difference is that Goldman Sachs didn't really need the tax break, while BP's bottom line is under severe pressure. The company plans to shed a number of assets and reported a $17.2 billion second-quarter loss on Tuesday. Read more about BP's plans.

 

"BP is a little bit under the gun here," Yetman said. "I don't know how they're going to play it, and I don't know how the public is going to respond. But there are certainly differences."

 

After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, the damaged well a mile below the ocean's surface spewed oil into Gulf waters for three months before the company was able to cap it. BP is in the process of drilling a relief well to permanently plug the well.

While the spill has taken a toll on local economies throughout the Gulf Coast, it also has cost the company. Hayward will be nominated as a nonexecutive director at BP's Russian joint venture, and Ro

July 30, 2010
Click to view DrSvenn2010's profile

To Nightshadow1: You do not need a whole whale to do research, only small pieces are required.

September 18, 2010
Click to view good42's profile

thanks

September 23, 2010
Click to view Roperm's profile

You say you might not need all the pieces to do research, but wouldn't it be better and easier to study the whole thing?

November 23, 2011
Click to view nl20051405's profile

This is something unexpected by all normal human beings. But there are do some terriosts interested in nothing but natural disasters and slaughters.

A giant whale is really in need to do a complete research about BP accident,although it happened quite some time ago.

 

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