NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Spill To Dolphin Deaths

Dolphins during Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Dolphins during Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Photo via NOAA.gov

NOAA’s “mortality event investigation team” has discovered that dead bottlenose dolphins, stranded in the northern Gulf of Mexico since the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have lung and adrenal lesions consistent with oil exposure according to a paper published today in the peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE.

These findings support those of a 2011 health assessment of live dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, a heavily oiled area during the spill which showed those resident dolphins had poor health, adrenal disease, and lung disease.

The timing and nature of the detected lesions support that contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint. Increased dolphin deaths after the oil spill are part of the northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event investigation.

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, head of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. “These studies have increasingly pointed to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons as being the most significant cause of the illnesses and deaths plaguing the Gulf’s dolphin population. This study carries those findings significantly forward.”

Read the full NOAA report HERE.