Federal scientists have linked a spike in deaths of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico to the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast. Environmental groups are calling on BP to stop fighting the findings and reach an agreement for restoration.
Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they’re certain that the BP oil spill triggered a massive dolphin die-off. They found lesions in the dolphins’ lungs and adrenal glands indicating exposure to oil.
Before the spill, about 60 dolphin deaths were recorded annually in the Gulf. After the spill, it’s averaged more than 200 a year. Dolphins in Barataria Bay near Grand Isle were especially hard-hit by the oil.
BP says the findings are flawed, and the dolphins likely died from common respiratory illnesses.
Steve Cochran is director of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration program for the Environmental Defense Fund.
“The increase of deaths is beyond anything that we’ve ever seen from any natural causes," he said. "Anybody is free to say whatever they want or issue some study and BP did that with their big report saying, ‘Everything was fine. No need to look anymore here.’ Right? But the point of science is to test these things and that’s what peer review is all about. And that’s what we’re looking at here and that’s what matters.”
His group, along with the National Wildlife Federation and the National Audubon Society, are calling for BP to quickly settle legal cases and restore the Gulf.