The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice: Confirmed-BP oil spill responsible for the demise of dolphins and sea corals.

NOAA Scientists Confirm BP Oil Spill Harms Dolphins and Deep-Sea Corals

A Barataria Bay dolphin is photographed by researchers, April, 2011.

Photo: NOAA
A Barataria Bay dolphin is photographed by researchers, April, 2011.

U.S.-based marine scientists say bottlenose dolphins and deep-sea corals in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred two years ago this April, are showing signs of severe stress from their prolonged exposure to the polluted water.

The dolphins’ ailments include low body weight, anemia, low blood sugar, and symptoms of liver and lung disease, according to biologists working on a post-spill, natural resource health assessment for NOAA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They report that nearly half of the dolphins they tested in the summer of 2011 have abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.

The scientists physically examined 32 live dolphins in the Gulf’s Barataria Bay.  One of the aquatic mammals was found dead this past January.  The researchers fear more of the dolphins will die of illnesses related to the 2010 oil spill, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.  During the accident, a damaged British Petroleum well, located on the seabed 80 kilometers off the Louisiana coast, gushed nearly five million barrels of crude oil into Gulf waters before being capped.

Another new NOAA study identifies the BP spill as the source of the contamination that is slowly killing numerous colonies of deep-water corals.  A detailed chemical analysis found a match between oil from the ruptured seafloor well and oil found coating colonies of slowly dying corals, 11 kilometers from the spill site.

The corals the scientists examined were covered in a fluffy, brown, mucus-like substance, and showed signs of tissue damage and severe stress.

The marine biologists note that in 10 years of research in the Gulf of Mexico, they have never seen deep-water coral dying in this manner.

Deep-water coral species usually are not harmed in an oil spill, but not even creatures living at depths of more than 1,200 meters were spared the unprecedented magnitude of the BP oil disaster.  However, the scientists say communities of deep-water corals 20 kilometers from the ruptured oil well were clean and thriving.

NOAA released the preliminary results of the dolphin study on Monday.

The study of the deep-water corals is published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an environmental and economic catastrophe.  Not only did it kill or threaten the region’s vast assortment of flora and wildlife, but the disaster also devastated the livelihoods of many thousands of people who work in fisheries and other businesses dependent on Gulf of Mexico resources.

Source: Voice of America

Mississippi Residents Find Death Along Oily Gulf Shores

Rocky Kistner

Since BP’s catastrophic oil blowout nearly two years ago, Laurel Lockamy has gotten pretty good at photographing the dead. She’s snapped images of dozens of lifeless turtles and dolphins, countless dead fish, birds, armadillos and nutria and pretty much anything that crawls, swims or flies near the white sandy Mississippi beaches of her Gulfport home.

Locals say this is far from normal. Laurel’s pictures can be hard to believe; photos of large bottlenose dolphins, their mouths agape and their silvery bodies stretched out like aluminum mannequins on the tar ball-littered sand as children frolic nearby in the warm waters of the Gulf. She’s taken shots of rotten, decaying endangered sea turtles wasting away on the shores, sprayed with orange paint by marine mammal experts for disposal by beach cleanup crews who sometimes take days to respond.

Dead dolphin on Mississippi Beach in 2011                   Photo: Laurel Lockamy

Last week was no different for Laurel, who was out taking pictures of sea life with her new Nikon lens. A strong spring storm had roiled the brown Gulf waters, apparently stirring up globs of the 200 million gallons of Louisiana crude that BP’s well spewed into the Gulf in 2010. Laurel says she found tar balls the size of bricks in the sand, spit out by the violent sea.

Not far away, Charles Taylor was walking along the beach on his birthday and found four dead endangered Kemp Ridley sea turtles washed up in Waveland. They were just a few of the 40 or so decaying sea turtles that have rolled in with the Gulf waves in recent weeks, making a resurgent appearance after spiking in unusual numbers a year ago. Here’s what a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration official toldMississippi Public Broadcasting this week:

“These numbers seem to be comparable to what we saw last year. NOAA scientists are always concerned when we see sea turtles strand. So what we’re doing is we’re collecting the sea turtles and we’ll necropsy as many of those as we can to see if we can determine what has caused these strandings.”

Dead turtle in Waveland, MS, March 22, 2012             Photo: Charles Taylor

Laurel didn’t find dead turtles on a recent stroll on her Gulfport shores, which she now calls “death beach.” But walking along she smelled something bad. After poking around in the sand, she found the nauseating source; a dead baby dolphin’s tail, decomposing and buried not more than a few inches in the sand. An out-of-work shrimper came a long and picked it up, and when he realized what it was he started to sob; “This really ruins my day…” Laurel remembers. Tourists looked at it incredulously, Laurel says, their kids screaming, ‘Mommy, it’s a dolphin’s tail!’

“It’s surreal what we find out here now,” Laurel says “Sometimes I think this can’t be happening. It’s gotten to the point where I just don’t want to look down at the beach anymore.”

Mississippi resident with dolphin tail; photo by Laurel Lockamy

As the second anniversary of the worst offshore oil spill in history approaches, the signs are not good things will return to normal anytime soon. Fishermen continue to complainthat healthy shrimp, oysters and crab are hard to find, and some of the ones they’re finding are loaded with lesions and abnormalities. Dolphins still die in record numbers; a recent report from scientists studying dolphins in Louisiana’s oil-soaked Barataria Bay found severe illness in a group of dolphins they are closely monitoring.

Based on comprehensive physicals of 32 live dolphins from Barataria Bay in the summer of 2011, preliminary results show that many of the dolphins in the study are underweight, anemic, have low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half also have abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function. Researchers fear that some of the study dolphins are in such poor health that they will not survive. One of these dolphins was found dead in January 2012.

A few days before Laurel found the dolphin tail, just after the storm had blown in from the Gulf, she was out photographing tar balls and dead sea life that had washed ashore. Some of them were more like tar logs, the size of large shoes, she says, globs of hardened petroleum that oozed brown sticky oil when squeezed. Laurel says when she squashed them near the water’s edge the water turned oily and brown.

Tar balls and cleanup crews near Gulfport, MS       Photos: Laurel Lockamy

Laurel says she ran into a woman who refused to believe the tar balls were oil, but after squeezing them and getting oil all over her hand, the woman demanded a picture to document it. “Take my picture, people need to see this,” Laurel recalls her saying, before she rushed off to find some strong detergent to wipe the sticky petroleum substance clean.

She was wise to look for a quick way to wash off. New research from the University of Auburn shows tar balls from the BP oil blowout may not be as innocuous as some think. Here’s how The Birmingham News reported it:

They found that the tar balls — which oil executives and government officials have said are little more than a nuisance — are teeming with bacteria, including Vibrio vulnificus, the leading cause of death from eating bad oysters. In fact, they discovered that the balls had up to 100 times more of that particular bacteria than the water they floated in and 10 times more than the sand they rested on.

“People don’t know what’s going on down here,” Laurel says. “The oil is still here and things are still dying. BP likes to make all their pretty commercials about how everything’s fine. Well I’m still here too and it’s not. But I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing to show people what’s really going on here.”

Laurel isn’t the only one. An interesting thing happened after the historic BP oil blowout: hard-working people living in the shadows of Big Oil grew tired of the status quo. They are demanding accountability from their political leaders and from the industries and powerbrokers who call the shots. They are a small but dedicated corps of Gulf residents who constantly monitor their beaches and shorelines, photographing and documenting the steady stream of death and oily waste that still washes in.

No one knows what the final toll of the BP debacle will be. But lovers of the Gulf continue to patrol their shores, alerting people to a disaster that seems to have no end.

Source: NRDC

High Number of Sick Dolphins May Be Linked to Gulf Oil Spill

Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
a bottlnose dolphin breaching the water's surface.
The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is showing some far-reaching effects, including a possible link with dolphins stranding in Barataria Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.
CREDIT: © Chris Johnson – earthOCEAN

Sickly, underweight bottlenose dolphins living and dying in the northern Gulf of Mexico may be the result of exposure to oil that gushed into the water after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

The oil disaster occurred April 20, 2010, when the Macando oil well blew out. During the three months it took to contain the leak emanating from the broken riser pipe at the well, about 4.9 million barrels of oil — or about 205 million gallons — gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, according to government estimates.

Barataria Bay in the Gulf was particularly affected by the oil for a prolonged period, the researchers noted. So to get a bead on dolphin health, they conducted comprehensive physicals of 32 live dolphins in Barataria Bay during the summer of 2011. They found that many of these dolphins were underweight, anemic, had low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. In addition, nearly 50 percent showed abnormally low levels of hormones known to help with the body’s response to stress, metabolism and immune function.

Specifically, the team saw low levels of the stress hormones cortisol and aldosterone, which are released by the adrenal glands.

“From studies of other mammals we know that adrenal insufficiency can lead to some fairly severe health problems; it can cause low blood sugar, weight loss, low blood pressure and eventually even lead to kidney and heart failure and death,” Lori Schwacke of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said during a news briefing. “So we’re concerned that many of the Barataria dolphins are in such poor health that they’re likely not to survive.”

In fact, one of the dolphins examined was later found dead and emaciated in January  on Grand Isle. These same health problems were not seen in Sarasota Bay in Florida, an area not exposed to oil from the spill.

Since February 2010, more than 675 dolphins have stranded in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which includes areas from Franklin County, Fla., to the Louisiana/Texas border. NOAA says that area usually averages about 74 stranded dolphins per year.

Because of the abnormally high number, NOAA declared an “unusual mortality event”  and is investigating the causes of the dolphin deaths. While most of the stranded dolphins have been dead when found, 33 have stranded on beaches alive and seven have been taken to facilities for rehabilitation.

NOAA scientists expect to see newborn, fetal and stillborn dolphins strand during the spring; and while they did see strandings in these age groups during 2010 and 2011, all age groups have continued to strand at high levels, they said. [World’s Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

As for how the oil entered the dolphins’ bodies, NOAA points to several mechanisms: inhaling vapors at the water’s surface; ingesting oil from the sediment or water while feeding; eating whole fish, whose organs and fluids can harbor contaminants; and absorption through their skin.

NOAA scientists are currently working with a team of marine mammal health experts to investigate the causes of such high dolphin mortality.

Source: Live Science

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 



~ by FSVSF Admin on 29 March, 2012.

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