Environmental campaign group finds ongoing symptoms of oil exposure in 14 species – from oysters to dolphins.
The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused dangerous after-effects to more than a dozen different animals from dolphins to oysters, a report from an environmental campaign group said recently.
Four years after the oil disaster, some 14 species showed symptoms of oil exposure, the report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said.
“The oil is not gone. There is oil on the bottom of the gulf, oil washing up on the beach and there is oil in the marshes,” Doug Inkley, senior scientist for NWF, told a conference call.
At the top of the food chain, more than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010, when the BP well exploded. Last year, dolphins were still stranding at more than three times the average annual rates before the spill, the report said.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Barataria Bay, which was heavily oiled during the spill, found dolphins were underweight and anaemic, and showing signs of liver and lung disease.
“These are top-level species that are in trouble,” Inkley said. “When you see sick dolphins like we do in Barataria Bay that tells you there is a problem and it needs to be examined even further.”
Sea turtles have also been stranding at a higher rate since the spill, the report said. “Roughly 500 stranded sea turtles have been found in the area affected by the spill every year from 2011 to 2013.”
Last month, NOAA researchers linked the oil from BP’s well to irregular heart beats in embryonic and newborn tuna. “We can now say with certainty that oil causes cardiotoxicity in fish,” Stanford University fish biologist Barbara Block told a press conference at the time.
BP has discounted the studies on dolphin and tuna.
The NWF report catalogued damage to other species from the spill from oysters – which showed declines in reproduction across large areas of the northern Gulf – to sperm whales, which have exhibited higher levels of metals than whales elsewhere.
NWF scientists said it could take years before the full effects of the oil spill on marine life were understood.
Much of the research on the effects of the spill is being gathered as evidence in legal proceedings that will attempt to set a dollar figure on the amount BP has to pay to restore the Gulf.
BP released a statement dismissing NWF’s findings. “The National Wildlife Federation report is a piece of political advocacy – not science. It cherry picks reports to support the organisation’s agenda,” BP said.
By Suzanne Goldenberg | www.theguardian.com