Every year a few baby dolphins in the Gulf don’t make it and are found on the shores of the Gulf, but this year something is different. To date, 24 baby dolphins have been found dead in Alabama and Georgia, some are stillborn, others aborted fetuses. Researchers, who say death-toll is ten times the average, are currently studying the dead porpoises for clues to cause. These could include colder-than-average waters, algal blooms, disease, or the incident in the back of everyone’s mind: the BP oil spill last year.
“I think we scientists are probably thinking pretty much the same thing everyone else is thinking. Does this have something to do with the oil spill?” Ruth Carmichael, a scientist with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, told the Press-Register. “It is not totally unusual to have these sort of mass mortality events or strandings. But, because this one is happening in the first birthing season after the spill, it certainly raises the question of a connection. And it should.”
However, researchers warn that their investigation could take months, and given that most of the bodies were found already-decomposing, the smoking gun may never be identified.
Even if the dolphins are not dying from direct contact with oil pollution, they may be facing nutrition problems if the oil spill killed off a significant portion of marine animals lower down the food chain. Since January, 67 dolphins, both young and old, have been dead along the coast.
Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia recently told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the Gulf ecosystem has been hit harder by the oil spill than previous reports suggested Using a submersible, she found dead marine life covered in oil and places where oil lay on the Gulf floor nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick.
Still, at this point no one can say with any certainty what is causing the mass mortality of dolphins in the Gulf.
(02/21/2011) Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia has seen the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the view wasn’t pretty. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Joye told the conference that she found places where oil lay on the Gulf floor nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick. Joye’s findings contradict rosier pictures of the overall damage caused by the 2010 BP oil spill, including a recent statement by Kenneth Feinberg, the US government czar for oil compensation, that the Gulf would largely recover by next year.
(07/29/2010) “President Obama called it ‘the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.’ So I thought I should face it and head to the Gulf”—these are the opening words on the popular blog Guilty Planet as the author, marine biologist Jennifer Jacquet, embarked on a ten day trip to Louisiana. As a scientist, Jacquet was, of course, interested in the impact of the some four million barrels of oil on the Gulf’s already depleted ecosystem, however she was as equally keen to see how Louisianans were coping with the fossil fuel-disaster that devastated their most vital natural resource just four years after Hurricane Katrina.
(06/08/2010) Will we ever know the full wildlife toll of the BP oil spill? The short answer: no. The gruesome photos that are making the media rounds over the last week of oiled birds, fish, and crustaceans are according to experts only a small symbol of the ecological catastrophe that is likely occurring both in shallow and deep waters. Due to the photos, birds, especially the brown pelican, have become the symbol of the spill to date. But while dozens of birds have been brought to rescue stations covered in oil, the vast majority will die out at sea far from human eyes and snapping cameras, according to Sharon Taylor a vet with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.