As investigators learn that the latest 101,000 gallon oil spill in California was due to the pipeline owner allowing the pipe to degrade to the thickness of an American nickel, a peer reviewed study published in PLOS ONE states that because of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, bottlenose dolphin mortality rates have skyrocketed.
Approximately 46 dead dolphins found stranded near Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama – all near the BP Gulf spill were – were examined from June 2010 to December 2012 by researchers. Each of these dolphins were labeled as UME or unusual mortality events. These dolphin’s deaths were compared to those in other regions that were not affected by the oil spill.
Veterinary pathologist Kathleen Colegrove, and lead researcher on the study said,
“We found that dolphins that stranded and died after the oil spill were more likely to have distinct adrenal gland and lung abnormalities compared to other dolphins that were not exposed to oil. These abnormalities, importantly, are very consistent with abnormalities that have been seen in other animals following petroleum oil exposure.”
The most significant differences between the subject and control dolphins were in the lungs, adrenal glands, and lymphoid system.
The study explained that the deaths of the dolphins were likely caused directly by BP:
“1) affected adrenal gland cortices, causing chronic adrenal insufficiency, 2) increased susceptibility to life-threatening adrenal crises, especially when challenged with pregnancy, cold temperatures, and infections, and 3) increased susceptibility to primary bacterial pneumonia, possibly due to inhalation injury, aspiration of oil, or perturbations in immune function.”
Stephanie Venn-Watson, veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, clarified:
“Animals with adrenal insufficiency are less able to cope with additional stressors in their everyday lives…and when those stressors occur, they are more likely to die.”
The researchers remarked that the dolphins had some of the most severe lung adhesions that they’d ever seen, likely caused by pneumonia linked to adrenal cortical atrophy – caused by oil exposure.
The study concluded that:
“… contaminants from the DWH oil spill contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint during the northern GoM UME following the DWH oil spill.”
BP Was forced to pay multi-million dollar fines to clean up their mess, but they still have not cleaned up the Gulf, and a huge ‘dead zone’ still exists there. Can California expect a similar fate?
Featured photo credit: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries