Think the spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico could drive some species to extinction? Put your money where your mouth is.
The gambling website PaddyPower.com placed odds today on what species would be first to become extinct as a result of crude belching from BP PLC's ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Odds are the Kemp's ridley turtle, and endangered species that migrates to the Gulf this time of year, would go first. A $5 bet on the turtle would win $9 if it's listed as extinct at any time because of the spill. Less likely species -- the gulf sturgeon, smalltooth sawfish and elkhorn coral -- have payout rates of 20-to-1.
In a statement announcing the extinction pool, the Irish bookmaker said it hoped the betting would "highlight the environmental catastrophe" and the "sure bet" that it would lead to the loss of some marine species.
"We kind of have a very simple philosophy at Paddy Power -- within reason if there is a very newsworthy event that are people are talking about, people should be allowed to back up their opinion with some cash," said Ken Robertson, a company spokesman.
The website is also taking bets on who will be the next CEO of BP, the company responsible for the spill. It also took bets on when the Icelandic volcano would stop erupting, and offers gambling on when the Large Hadron Collider will reach full power and what it will discover first: black power or dark energy. Odds on the collider discovering God? 100-to-1.
In the first six hours of betting on the species extinctions, there were more than 50 bets placed, Robertson said.
Other online gambling sites have taken bets on the spill. Earlier this month, tonline sports gambling site Bookmaker.com took bets on how successful or unsuccessful the BP's massive concrete dome would be at gathering the oil. Their bookies put odds on the dome's collecting 80 percent of the spill (Greenwire, May 7).
The mercenary take on the disaster comes as crude continues to flow and begins to creep into Louisiana's coastal marshes. Oil has pushed at least 12 miles into the wetlands and coated two major pelican rookeries, according to news reports.
Oil in marshes and wetlands is what local officials and scientists have long feared, saying it could place severe stresses on wildlife and harm marine nurseries and breeding grounds.
"Once it gets into the marshes, it will be very difficult to get rid of," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told reporters last week. "It is very toxic to many species at young stages, and fish and wildlife depend on estuaries as nursery habitat."
Group wants listing for bluefin tuna
Concerned that the spill could have devastating effects on deepwater fisheries, the Center for Biological Diversity today petitioned the government to protect the bluefin tuna as an endangered species.
In a formal scientific petition submitted to NOAA, the group said oil will have devastating effects on eggs and larvae floating in the sheen and will harm adult tuna breathing oil into their gills.
Bluefin tuna populations have already declined because of overfishing in international waters. The Obama administration supported a failed bid to ban the export of bluefin tuna as a part of international wildlife negotiations in March.
"Bluefin tuna encounter thousands of deadly hooks while migrating across the Atlantic, and now an oil spill will welcome home the survivors," said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney for the group.
Marine biologists have said that tuna are at risk from oil and dispersants (Greenwire, May 14). There are two populations of bluefin tuna: One spawns in the Mediterranean and the other in the Gulf of Mexico. The center wants endangered status for both.
Bluefin tuna is second on the bookies' list in the PaddyPower.com pool, with a payout rate of 6-to-4.