BP Oil Disaster Prompts ‘Perfect Storm’ Behind Mass Dolphin Deaths, Study Finds

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"BP Oil Disaster Prompts ‘Perfect Storm’ Behind Mass Dolphin Deaths, Study Finds"

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP has mostly resumed normal operations in the Gulf of Mexico. But many animals in the Gulf haven’t gone back to normal.

Researchers have connected a recent dolphin die-off to the 2010 oil spill, which likely weakened dolphins for colder conditions in Gulf waters.

According to a study from scientists at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, published in PLoS ONE, 186 young dolphins washed ashore along Gulf coasts during a four-month period between January 1 and April 30 2011. This included 86 baby dolphins, which is six times more than the average.

University of Central Florida biologist and study researcher Graham Worthy said:

Unfortunately, it was a ‘perfect storm’ that led to the dolphin deaths. The oil spill and cold water of 2010 had already put significant stress on their food resources. . . .   It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snowmelt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow.

Other studies have connected the massive dolphin die-off to the BP spill. Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that dolphins off the coast of Louisiana — an area significantly hit by the spill — have become seriously ill due to oil exposure. NOAA “found problems like drastically low weight, low blood sugar and, in some cases, cancer of the liver and lungs.”

Since Febrauary 2010 (two months before the spill) 754 marine mammals have washed onto the shore, 95 percent of which were dead. The actual death toll could be much higher since many bodies never wash up.

The BP disaster has hit other marine life, as well, causing eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions.

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