ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Contradicting a federal report, five Georgia scientists say 80 percent, not 26 percent, of the crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster remains in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Where has all the oil gone? It hasn't gone anywhere. It still lurks in the deep," said University of Georgia marine scientist Chuck Hopkinson.
Earlier this month, White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on several morning TV shows, "More than three-quarters of the oil is gone. The vast majority of the oil is gone."
The Georgia scientists said federal officials are misinterpreting the data.
"The bottom line is most of it is still out there," Hopkinson told the Associated Press. "There's nothing in the report to substantiate the 26 percent."
In St. Petersburg, University of South Florida researchers briefed reporters on their latest findings on Tuesday.
They said oil from that may be from the BP disaster has traveled further east than previously thought and was found to be at toxic levels. Tests will be conducted to confirm the source of the oil.
It's believed that dispersants used to break up the spill may have sent droplets of crude to the floor of the Gulf in an area known as the Desoto Canyon, not far from Panama City.
Ultraviolet light was used to identify the oil. "It was very, very small droplets," said Dr. David Hollander. "It sparkled like a constellation of stars."
The USF team said the oil appears to be having a negative impact on marine life.
"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said USF researcher Dr. John Paul in a summary released Monday night.
Meanwhile, commercial shrimpers out for the first season since BP's disastrous spill indicated their catch was plentiful and free of oil, despite the new report about the amount of crude still in the Gulf.
Fishermen spent much of the summer mopping up oil but got back to work as the fall shrimping season in Louisiana's coastal waters opened Monday amid anxiety over whether the catch will be tainted by crude and whether anyone will buy it even if it is clean.
"We're not seeing any oil where I'm at. No tar balls, nothing," said Brian Amos, a 53-year-old shrimper who trawled in his 28-foot skiff, The Rolling Thunder, in a bay near Empire, Louisiana.
It was a step toward normalcy for many coastal towns that have been in limbo in the nearly four months since the spill shut down fishing, an economic linchpin for dock owners, restaurants and many other businesses along the Louisiana coast. Louisiana ranks first in the nation in shrimp, blue crab, crawfish and oysters, and the state's seafood industry overall generates an estimated $2.4 billion a year.
Sources: The Associated Press, CNN
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Plenty of sunshine with warm temps and humid conditions. Only a 20% chance for an afternoon shower or storm.