Dolphins in 'bad shape' after BP oil spill

February 1, 2014 by Kerry Sheridan
A worker cleans tarballs from the BP oil spill on Waveland beach December 6, 2010 in Waveland, Mississippi

Bottlenose dolphins with missing teeth, lung disease, and abnormal hormone levels were found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, US researchers say.

Pneumonia, liver disease and a pregnant female carrying a dead fetus were also reported in the first major study of dolphin health after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Half of the 32 dolphins studied off the coast of Louisiana in August 2011—a year and four months after the worst oil spill in US history began—were judged to be seriously ill or in danger of dying.

"I've never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals," said lead author Lori Schwacke, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The wild dolphins were captured in the central Louisiana waters and held briefly for health checks before being released.

"There is disease in any wild population. We just haven't seen animals that were in such bad shape as what we saw in Barataria Bay," she said.

Their health was compared to 27 in Sarasota Bay, Florida, an area also in the Gulf that was unaffected by the oil spill.

The Barataria Bay dolphins had significantly lower levels of adrenal hormones, which are critical to an animal's stress response.

Moderate to severe was five times more common in the Louisiana dolphins than in their Floridian counterparts.

Three of the Barataria Bay dolphins had also lost nearly all their teeth, and three others had just half of their normal number of teeth left. Dolphins typically have between 78 and 106 teeth.

"There were several dolphins that were in such bad shape that the veterinarians that examined them did not expect them to live very long," said Schwacke, an expert on dolphins in the southern United States.

Two Risso's dolphins are herded by fishing boats, 23 November 2003, near the village of Taiji, central Japan

Dolphins that were studied also suffered from pneumonia, anemia, low blood sugar, and elevated liver enzymes.


Oil giant BP said the report, which appeared in December in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, was "inconclusive as to any causation associated with the spill."

Asked for comment, BP spokesman Jason Ryan directed AFP to a company statement that read in part: "Symptoms observed in the study have been seen in other dolphin mortality events that have been related to contaminants and conditions found in the northern Gulf, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and pesticides."

BP also called on NOAA to release all of its data on the unusual deaths of more than 1,000 dolphins off the Gulf Coast, dating back to February 2010, three months before the spill.

NOAA researchers admitted that their study cannot prove that the dolphin's health problems were caused by the BP oil spill because there were no studies of dolphin health in that area prior to the spill.

However when comparing blubber, the Louisiana dolphins have lower levels of pesticides and flame retardant chemicals than the Florida group, suggesting that agricultural runoff and common pollution were not the cause of their diseases.

"We feel like it is highly unlikely that the toxic effects that we observed in Barataria Bay dolphins were associated with exposure to other environmental contaminants," said Schwacke.

"What we are seeing is consistent with oil exposure," she said.

A dead dead dolphin lies on a beach on the northern coast of Peru, close to Chiclayo, some 750 km north of Lima, April 11, 2012


NOAA said it is still trying to determine why 1,082 dolphins have been stranded in the northern Gulf of Mexico since February 2010.

An unusually high number of dolphins and whales started washing up on shore prior to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that sparked the underwater spill.

Between February and the end of April 2010, 114 dolphins and whales were stranded. Nearly 1,000 more were stranded between April 30, 2010 and January 26, 2014.

Those included 86 baby dolphins that washed ashore dead from Louisiana to western Florida between January and April 2011.

NOAA scientist Teri Rowles said that neither the measles-like morbillivirus—blamed for killing bottlenose dolphins along the US East Coast—nor the bacterial infection brucellosis appear to be the cause of the Gulf of Mexico deaths.

"At this time we don't have a factor that we can pinpoint as a causative agent and we certainly at this point cannot rule out the role of the BP oil spill in the mortality event," said Rowles.

Craig Harms, a veterinarian that helped check the dolphin's health, told AFP that their symptoms mirrored those seen in lab animals exposed to oil.

"Crude oil exposure is the most reasonable explanation for adrenal insufficiency and lung disease in the Barataria Bay ," said Harms, an associate professor at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Explore further: Study: Many sick dolphins one year after oil spill (Update)

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4 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2014
Why BP is still in business is a mystery to me. All their US assets should have been seized to pay for a comprehensive clean-up.
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 01, 2014
qquax - are you aware of the political system of graft and corruption that is so dominant in the U.S.? BP will not have to make good on their disaster caused by carelessness - because they are part owners of both parties in a 2 party system.
4 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2014
Partners in crime and killing. Only consumers can make them stop, and the corporate world is doing their best to make us all paupers and beholden.
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2014
Why BP is still in business is a mystery to me
Because everyone wants oil, even you. And nobody bothers about alternatives, until the oil reserves are somehow working. When people don't like the killing of dolphins during tuna fishing, they will simply stop to eat the tuna. But I never met someone, who would stop to use oil products (gas and plastics) just because some dolphins died during mining of oil.
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2014
This will be the same off the coast of Queensland, when they start dumping shit and tonnes of dredge waste there. R.I.P the ocean.
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 02, 2014
Is it possible the dolphins' health problems are related to the practice of using detergents to disperse the oil? Makes the oil that much easier to inhale and ingest.
Whydening Gyre
3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2014
Just a hunch, but... Alfie may be onto something...
3.8 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2014
Alfie may be onto something
And he is not even first with it (Deepwater Horizon Chemical Dispersants 52 Times More Toxic than Oil). But the non-dispersed oil would kill the beach organisms (crabs, seals and birds) and the profit from tourism at the Florida beaches instead.
1.6 / 5 (5) Feb 02, 2014
Whether it be Fukushima, the Gulf, or cow farting enhanced AGW, the only answer is a vegan lifestyle. Wait, Monsanto has that covered too...
1.5 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2014
Is it possible the dolphins' health problems are related to the practice of using detergents to disperse the oil? Makes the oil that much easier to inhale and ingest.

Crude oil naturally seeps out all over the ocean floor, but not detergents.
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2014
Crude oil naturally seeps out all over the ocean floor, but not detergents
It requires lotta time, during which the oil may reach the coastal areas. The pictures of birds covered by oil aren't taken from ocean floor.
2 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2014
Oil naturally reaches beaches in California.

Save the birds and use detergents or save the dolphins and don't.
2 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2014
It sounds like "save the Dolphins and don't", would be the best choice, given that dolphin's are sentient.
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 03, 2014

Crude oil naturally seeps out all over the ocean floor, but not detergents.

Annual natural seepage distributed throughout the entire Gulf is estimated at 70,000 tonnes/year whereas the BP oil spill released 700,000 tonnes, most during a period of 87 days, i.e. 40x the annual rate. Each of these low-volume natural seeps has its own unique chemical signature and unique set of bacteria adapted to that seep, so the bacteria are already working on breaking it down at the point of release, vs. the BP disaster which released an immense amount of oil from a virgin location. The toxic oil industry shill ryggesogn2 is trying to cast the BP oil spill as being equivalent to a natural event, which it clearly is not.
5 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2014
Thank you @barain for clarifying that. 70,000 natural seep/year vs 700,000 in 87 days is significant. In sure numbers the gulf has been wiped out. Biologically it has been wiped out. Shrimp caught from the gulf have above normal mutations and deformities, All the kind of stuff @R2 would love in his diet.
3 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2014
The EPA and the Coast Guard told BP not to use the dispersant Corexit but BP ignored their order, going as far as pulling strings and getting the Obama administration to nullify these orders. Major deceptions, major treason.
1 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2014
"In a press release by Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, the Oil Spill Eater International (OSEI) company calls out the EPA for what founder Steve Pedigo says boils down to blocking the development of oil spill cleanup science that is environmentally safe while also effective. "
"Despite cleaning teams requesting environmentally-friendly alternatives, which Pedigo says includes OSEI's Oil Spill Eater II, the EPA did not honor the requests and instead enforced the usafe of dispersants like Corexit in the face the concerning evidence. According to the statements in the release, BP even made a direct request to switch to a better alternative."
4 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2014
I tried to go to OSEI's main web page, but my antivirus program noticed it was infected with JS/Agent.NKW trojan. However, I did find the wikipedia article the company created for itself, where one of their two references mentions doing a test in a 5 gallon bucket and another after accidentally spilling 100 gallons of the stuff on a beach. The only other reference contains absolutely no information under what conditions OSE II was used. Given the company's inability to handle technology as simple as a website, and with no evidence of large scale tests in open water under windy conditions, I wouldn't have gone with this company's product either.

Note soggyring2's implicit trust of this corporation despite obvious red flags.
1 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2014
Given the company's inability to handle technology as simple as a website

But the US govt, that can't create a secure health care web site, should be trusted?
4 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2014
Actually the US Gov't hired a bunch of companies to make the website. I see a pattern here!
1 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2014
Actually the US Gov't hired a bunch of companies to make the website. I see a pattern here!

Yes, ONE company, CGI, that was a friend of BHO and his wife.
Yes, there is a pattern of corruption.
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2014
Yes, ONE company, CGI,.

And Development Seed, Teal Media, Edward Mullen Studio, Quality Software Services Inc., Booz Allen Hamilton, Experian, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, UnitedHealth Group, and dozens of other companies. I wonder if it's even possible for you to tell the truth.
1 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2014
"Over the past few weeks, if you've been paying attention at all to the unfolding disaster of people trying and failing to sign up for Obamacare online, one name keeps coming up: CGI Federal, the IT contractor that has orchestrated most of the Web site. "
"According to, CGI Federal got a total of $678 million for various services under the contract — including the $93.7 million job, which CGI Federal won over three other companies in late 2011."
"CGI Federal was the primary one, and had received $88 million out of the $394 million that had been spent at that point (the next biggest recipient got $55 million). Along with building sites for the states that elected to participate in the federal marketplace, it's in charge of knitting all the pieces together, making Quality Software Services' data hub work seamlessly with Development Seed's sleek user interface and Oracle's identity management software "
5 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2014
Well that's all well and good @R2 and we could site Halliburton under your party's control with Bush as also being a waste of taxpayer dollars. How many billions was wasted on that trumped up fake war support contract? Considering that Obamacare is doing OK in the states the implemented the exchanges and most of the Red states that didn't do medicaid expansion have really managed to screw over the poor, you should be happy and proud of your red-state misery index.

Here is a Chef talking about Gulf-Shrimp, It's 12 min long but it's interesting to see a Chef;s POV.

Anyway, what I don't understand @R2 is what the hell does Obamacare have to do with the BP Gulf deep well Oil spill disaster? If republicans tried to do an Obamacare website, some republican friendly company would have made a few billion dollars and never delivered a line of code! But that would be OK because that company would have donated a few million to some Super Pac!
1 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2014
Obamacare have to do with the BP Gulf deep well Oil spill disaster?

Both highlight the failure of the state.
Hottie claims to be 'conservative' yet he can't, or won't acknowledge the failure the state in both cases.
A real Goldwater conservative could see how the state failed.
not rated yet Feb 10, 2014
@ Barakn OSEI gets attacks from time to time since OSE II is the only real threat to replace toxic dispersants, which OSE II is doing overseas. The web site is one of the most comprehensive web sites for oil spill clean up products in the world with third party tests, case studies, videos, pictures, and publications. OSE II has cleaned up over 27000 spills to date. OSE II was just used on the continent of Africa, OSE II was used on a spill over 600,000 liters of oil that coated shorelines and large area of sensitive mangroves. OSE II was air shipped to the region and applied. There was no damage to the mangroves, and within a week of applying OSE II you could not tell there had ever been a spill. The oil company millions in natural resource damage fines. OSE II was used instead of toxic dispersants, no responders came up sick, no dead marine species and the spill was permanently removing the spill from the environment by converting it to CO2 and water.
not rated yet Feb 10, 2014
@Nestle there is a solution OSE II that is non toxic to humans, marine species, and actually permanently removes the oil from the environment, and has for over 27000 spills. Applying a toxic dispersant to so called prevent it from coming to the beach while destroying all the species in the water column and the seabed is not an acceptable trade off. Corexit also has 2 butoxy ethanol in it which means for years as the tar balls and oil come ashore, humans will exposed to chemicals that will then cause them to suffer flu like symptoms that will recede then turn into some form of cancer in 3 to 5 years. Despite the EPA's full knowledge of this they are still pushing toxic dispersants in direct contradiction with the clean water act. The US EPA has tested OSE II themselves for efficacy and toxicity, they no it is more effective and and far less toxic than dispersants, yet they still push dispersants that contain carcinogens. So while the beach goers believe everything is OK, it is NOT!

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