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Scientists Say BP Spill Killed Dolphins, BP Says No It Didn’t

Scientists says they’ve found “critical” evidence linking the deaths of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico to the BP oil spill in 2010. It’s the latest challenge to BP’s suggestion that dolphins died for other reasons.

 

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Image credit: carolyn/flickr

In the summer of 2010, scientists who witnessed it say it was a pitiful site: Dolphins along the central Louisiana Coast, struggling to breath and then stranding themselves on beaches where they died. But what exactly killed them?

An obvious suspect was the BP oil spill that from April to July of that year gushed millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf’s waters from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

“Dolphins were swimming in the oil,” said scientist Stephanie Venn-Watson. Watson works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on its damage assessment of the BP spill.

“Increased deaths occurred in areas most heavily oiled by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Venn-Watson said, as she and two other scientists talked with reporters.

They said their study of 46 dead dolphins revealed lung damage that they linked to how dolphins breathe by inhaling air just above the water’s surface.

“Where oil fumes would be the most concentrated and where there’s a good chance of inhaling oil itself,” said Venn-Watson.

But BP said this latest study doesn’t prove their oil killed dolphins.

In a statement emailed to us the company said, “… numerous studies conducted over the last several decades have shown that respiratory illness … is among the most common causes of death for bottlenose dolphins, including a study where half of the dolphins examined had pneumonia.”

But the scientists who did this latest study for the federal government said dolphins showed highly unusual internal damage inconsistent with infections.

So we asked scientist Venn-Watson, given these latest findings, does she believe it puts those arguments to rest?

“In our minds, using the evidence to date, yes,” said Venn-Watson.

 

Scientific Journal: Relationship of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Gulf of Mexico dolphin deaths

 

05 20 2015 EMBARGOED PDF PLOS ONE DOLPHIN PAPER Journal Pone 0126538 (PDF)

05 20 2015 EMBARGOED PDF PLOS ONE DOLPHIN PAPER Journal Pone 0126538 (Text)

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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