NEW ORLEANS - Federal scientists said yesterday that extensive sampling of the Gulf of Mexico seafloor found oil in quantities too small to collect and in concentrations below harmful levels, except in the area surrounding the BP well.

The Coast Guard's report is in contrast with independent scientists who say oil from the BP spill extensively damaged the seafloor and killed coral, sea fans and many bottom-dwelling animals like tubeworms.

"We are not finding any recoverable amounts of oil" on the seafloor, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said. "We are dealing with barely detectable amounts of oil in the parts per billion in many places."

He said the tiny amounts of oil fall well under pollution limits, except for the area within 1 1/2 miles of the BP well, where oil is bound with drilling mud pumped into the BP well to cap it.