National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have linked oil found on 8 of the 406 dolphins that washed ashore over the past 14 months to the massive BP oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April of last year. This past February, after seeing a dramatic rise in the number of dead dolphins turning up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the NOAA declared “an unusual mortality event”. There have been 153 deaths this year, 65 of which were newly born or stillborn. Some experts had suggested at the time of the spill that there would be delayed damage done to marine life. They also speculated that oil ingested or inhaled by dolphins could lead to miscarriages.
“It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago,” said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. There has also been 87 dead sea turtles found, but so far there hasn’t been any visible traces of oil found on their bodies, said NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator, Barbara Schroeder. She also added “But we do not have very much information about how oil products find their way into turtles,”. There are five species of sea turtles that live in the gulf, all of which are considered at risk of extinction.
Samples have been sent for testing to determine if the oil spill contributed to the dolphins’ deaths but the Obama administration is keeping all lab findings under lock and key due to the ongoing civil and criminal investigation involving BP.
“Because of the seriousness of the legal case, no data or findings may be released, presented or discussed outside the (unusual mortality event) investigative team without prior approval,” NOAA stated in a February letter that was obtained by Reuters.