Deepwater Horizon oil spill contributed to dolphin deaths

US government study finds petroleum contaminants likely source of lung, adrenal lesions

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 23 May 2015

Researchers record data and photograph a dead dolphin stranded along the Port Fourchon Louisiana coastline following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Photo: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

The explosion of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 had a deadly effect on bottlenose dolphins. A study by US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that lung and adrenal lesions found on dead bottlenose dolphins along the coastline of the gulf are consistent with petroleum product exposure.

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Teri Rowles, veterinarian and one of 22 contributing authors on the paper, and head of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, according to an NOAA news release dated May 20.

 The study, published in journal PloS One on May 20, shows that half of the dead dolphins examined from Barataria Bay, which lies in the Gulf of Mexico, had a thin adrenal gland cortex. This indicates adrenal insufficiency.  In comparison, only 7 per cent of the dead stranded reference dolphins, collected from coastal regions outside the Deepwater Horizon oil spill area and time frame, had a thin adrenal cortex.

“The timing, location, and nature of the detected lesions support that contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint,” says the press release.

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