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Five Years After BP Spill, What’s Killing Gulf Dolphins?

Dolphins are dying in the Gulf of Mexico, but the cause has become a point of contention between one of the world’s biggest oil companies and a wildlife group.

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Image credit: carolyn/flickr

It was five years ago next month that a BP oil drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers. Millions of gallons of crude spilled into the water. Damage was done to aquatic life.

But is the spilled oil now to blame for the deaths of hundreds of dolphins?

“The magnitude and the duration of the deaths is utterly unprecedented in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ryan Fikes, a scientist with the National Wildlife Federation. In a conference call, Fikes talked with reporters along with the group’s David Muth. They released a report titled “Five Years & Counting” about the effects of the spill on wildlife.

“There is compelling evidence that this mortality event that has been going on since the spill is linked to the spill,” said Muth, head of the group’s Gulf Restoration Program.

But is BP’s oil to blame?

BP wrote in a report it released two weeks ago that the unusually high number of dolphin deaths began several months before the rig explosion and may be linked to a deadly strain of animal bacteria. In an emailed response from BP’s media relations office, the company said the National Wildlife Federation was trying to use the spill to raise money for its “policy agenda.”

Overall, BP says the parts of the Gulf affected by the spill are “undergoing a strong recovery.”

The Wildlife Federation calls that assessment a “very rose picture” that is at odds with what it says are diminished populations of sea turtles, pelicans, and fish.

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