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Study: Dolphin Deaths Likely Tied to Oil Spill

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Findings point to Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released results of a study that found a high rate of perinatal dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the NOAA study, there were an increased number of stranded stillborn and juvenile dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010 to 2013 -- an occurrence that is likely caused by chronic illnesses in mothers. The cause of the chronic illnesses experienced by mother dolphins is likely exposure to oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is also referred to as the BP oil spill, the BP oil disaster, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Macondo blowout, began on April 20, 2010 and flowed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days until it was capped on July 15, 2010.

Veterinarian Dr. Teri Rowles, head of the NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and co-author of the NOAA study, said that the finds of their study added to the "mounting evidence from peer-reviewed studies that exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill severely harmed the reproductive health of dolphins living in the oil spill footprint in the northern Gulf of Mexico."

Scientists observed the largest number of stranded stillborn and juvenile dolphins in the spill zone in 2011 -- the year following the spill. And the juvenile dolphins appeared in larger numbers in Mississippi and Alabama.

Ongoing investigation

The NOAA noted that investigations into both the fetal dolphin deaths, and the overall effects of the oil spill, are still a work in progress, as the long-term dolphin reproduction consequences are still a big unknown.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.