Saturday, May 23, 2015

Study- BP Oil Spill Connected to Dolphin Die-Off in the Gulf of Mexico

A dead dolphin near Port Fourchon in Louisiana.

Scientists have recently pointed that the BP Oil Spill has probably played a major role in the killing of many dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. In a study published Wednesday, researchers from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered that dead dolphins that washed ashore in areas badly hit by the oil spill between 2010 and 2012 experienced damage to the adrenal gland or bacterial pneumonia. They indicated that the damage was possibly caused by dolphins breathing in or swallowing oil as they surfaced to breathe. This study is part of a continuous investigation into the immense die-off in the Gulf, extending from the borders of Texas and Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. It began just before the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up forty miles offshore. Researchers believe that previous deaths were linked to salinity and water temperatures. Current deaths have largely pointed to oil - roughly three million barrels flowed into the Gulf over 87 days - as the most powerful cause of illness and death in dolphins. BP executives challenged the findings, indicating that various studies over many decades showed that dolphins generally die from respiratory diseases. For the study, researchers checked dolphins washed ashore near Louisiana's Barataria Bay west of the Mississippi Delta that was hit hard by the oil spill. Half of them suffered from adrenal damage, which can make dolphins unprepared for tensions like cold temperatures or pregnancy. When researchers expanded their investigation to add the spill's whole footprint and dolphins washing ashore on the Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi coasts, they discovered that one in three dolphins suffered from lacerations compared to only 7 percent in populations outside the spill. Researchers also discovered that one in five dolphins had bacterial pneumonia that caused or contributed to their deaths. They deduced that condition could have existed before the oil spill due to the number of deaths being so high and added that they are continuing to examine the deaths to figure out what longstanding damage the oil may cause to the dolphin population.

The findings made the NOAA show how devastating oil spills in general can be on the long-run. Even before the BP oil spill, researchers discovered  that the dolphin population in the Gulf of Mexico was being greatly affected due to changes in water temperatures and salinity. The oil spill further contributed to the downfall in dolphin numbers with majority of animals succumbing to adrenal gland damages or bacterial pneumonia. Furthermore, they also discovered that the dolphins suffered from lacerations. It is extremely disheartening to see numbers of dolphins killed as a result of the oil spill and even before it actually took place. These animals play a crucial role in the marine environment by maintaining balance in the ecosystem and are often considered the main attraction among tourists. At the same time, organizations like NOAA should form some kind of a collaboration with other environmental organizations in order to exchange ideas on how to sustainably extract oil without damaging the environment and suggest those ideas to representatives of major oil companies. This would help prevent any oil spills in the future.

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