Surprise: BP’s Record-Breaking Oil Spill Decimated Dolphins


A dolphin that died off the Louisiana coast in 2012. Image: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
A dolphin that died off the Louisiana coast in 2012. Image: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Dolphins have been dying off at unprecedented rates in the Gulf of Mexico over the last five years, and a new study helps confirm what researchers suspected: the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is to blame.


By Kari Paul|MOTHERBOARD

After the 2010 disaster, which was the largest marine-based oil spill in US history, scientists documented the highest number of dead bottlenose dolphin strandings on record in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with more than 1,300 washed ashore as of May 2015.

Scientists have been investigating the unusual mortality event over the last five years to see if it can be tied to the spill. Previous research showed dolphins in heavily affected areas showed signs of adrenal and lung disease, and the most recent study, published today in PLoS One, found exposure to oil was the most significant cause for these diseases and death.

“There is no feasible alternative that could reasonably explain the timing, location, and nature of the increase in deaths,” Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation and the study’s lead author, said of the oil spill.

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