They may have disappeared the oil but they can’t disappear the effects
The discovery of more than 80 dead dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico is raising fresh concerns about the effect on sea life from last year’s massive BP oil spill.
The dead dolphins began appearing in mid-January along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the United States. Although none of the carcasses appeared to show outward signs of oil contamination, all were being examined as possible casualties of the petrochemicals that fouled the sea water and sea bed after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded last April, killing 11 men and rupturing a wellhead on the sea floor. The resulting “gusher” produced the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, releasing nearly five billion barrels of crude oil before it was capped in July.
The remains of 77 animals – nearly all bottlenose dolphins – have been discovered on islands, in marshes and on beaches along 200 miles of coastline. This figure is more than 10 times the number normally found washed up around this time of year, which is calving season for some 2,000 to 5,000 dolphins in the region. Another seven dead animals were reported yesterday, although the finds have not yet been confirmed by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
One of the more disturbing aspects of the deaths is that nearly half – 36 animals so far – have been newborn or stillborn dolphin calves. In January 2009 and 2010, there were no reports of stranded calves, and because this is the first calving season since the BP disaster, scientists are concerned that the spill may be a cause.