"ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. – Six months after the rig explosion that led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, damage to the Gulf of Mexico can be measured more in increments than extinctions, say scientists polled by The Associated Press.
In an informal survey, 35 researchers who study the Gulf lowered their rating of its ecological health by several points, compared to their assessment before the BP well gushed millions of gallons of oil. But the drop in grade wasn't dramatic. On a scale of 0 to 100, the overall average grade for the oiled Gulf was 65 — down from 71 before the spill.
This reflects scientists' views that the spilled 172 million gallons of oil further eroded what was already a beleaguered body of water — tainted for years by farm runoff from the Mississippi River, overfishing, and oil from smaller spills and natural seepage.
The spill wasn't the near-death blow initially feared. Nor is it the glancing strike that some relieved experts and officials said it was in midsummer."