BILOXI, Miss. (WALA) - In the 87 days following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Since then, scientists have been working to answer questions many people have: What are the effects, short and long-term, on our ecosystem, public health and our seafood?
At the Civic Center in Biloxi, three experts told a group of people we are far from realizing the extent of the damage.
"Right now, the negative signs are piling up," said Dr. Ed Cake who specializes in oysters.
Dr. Scott Milroy is an oceanographer and professor at University of Southern Mississippi. He said the toxin levels in the species in the Gulf are higher than the FDA led us to believe and registered as unsafe through his studies following the spill.
"What does it mean moving forward as far as how's it going to affect those organisms long-term as far as survival - Whether they will reproduce in the next generation for shrimpers and oysters next year? Will they have a crop to go out and harvest? All of these questions are a little more concerning if you have a level of contamination in these species which was higher than people thought," said Milroy.
Dr. Ed Cake said the oyster industry has been decimated, and we can't hope to see an improvement anytime soon.
"So if were talking about what's happening here, we already know at 18 months there's no recovery started. Even if the oysters begin setting in the spring, that will be another 5 years before that's crop of oysters to be ready, so were looking at least 5 years," said Cake.
Finally, there's the issue of human health.
Dr. Wilma Surba has been studying the crude crisis' effects on people mentally and physically, and she has found serious problems.
"It's a lot of respiratory problems, skin rashes, skin lesions, decreased lung functions - problems that are acute in the beginning and are now very chronic problems," said Surba.
Each of the panelists said the effects of the oil spill cannot be fully realized just yet.
Through private studies like theirs, they said we will find the lasting footprint of the oil spill.
The discussion was sponsored by the Sierra Club. It's the third in a series meant to educate the public on the facts of the spill and its effects.
Watch interviews with each of the experts by selecting a video from the player above.
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