Scientists say a newspaper's discovery presents evidence that a rare, pencil-shaped fish could be breeding in a coastal bay, raising new questions about the effects of drilling for gas.
While the species has not been documented in Mississippi or Alabama for more than 30 years, marine biologists believe an eight-inch creature captured by Mobile Register reporters in Grand Bay in late July is an opossum pipefish. The fish was caught in a cast near the state line as reporters surveyed the bay's plant and animal communities.
Scientists had feared that the opossum pipefish had disappeared from the northern Gulf of Mexico.
A scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the specimen is either an opossum pipefish or another rare species known as the chain pipefish. The fish was released after it was photographed.
The fish was caught about a mile from the site chosen by Colorado-based Duncan Oil for an exploratory natural gas well.
Recently, Alabama Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley sent the oil company a letter temporarily denying permission to drill.