Scientists Find Sick Dolphins and Deep-Water Corals in Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Zone

A Barataria Bay dolphin is photographed by researchers, April, 2011.
A Barataria Bay dolphin is photographed by researchers, April, 2011.

Scientists Find Sick Dolphins and Deep-Water Corals in Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Zone

Two groups of scientists say they have identified signs of poor health in dolphins and in deep-sea corals due to exposure to polluted water in the northern Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred nearly two years ago.

The deadly April 2010 disaster is the worst off-shore oil spill in U.S. history.

A team of biologists assessing the health of a resident pod of dolphins in the Gulf’s Barataria Bay say their preliminary findings indicate the marine mammals are suffering from low body weight, anemia, low blood sugar, and symptoms of liver and lung disease.  Also, nearly half of the 32 dolphins they tested in mid-2011 have abnormally low levels of certain hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.  

One of the dolphins they examined was found dead in January, and the researchers fear more will die.  

The scientists say the dolphins’ ailments are similar to those found in other mammals exposed to oil, but their current findings do not specifically link the animals’ illness to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The dolphin study is part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which is a continuing analysis of how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has impacted plant and animal life in the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, researchers who conducted a separate study say their observations and a detailed chemical analysis have yielded strong evidence of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea corals 1,300 meters below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.  

The Penn State University-led study co-authors say they found communities of corals 11 kilometers from the source of the oil spill that were covered in a fluffy, brown, mucus-like substance, and showing signs of tissue damage and severe stress.   They note that coral colonies they examined at sites located at least 20 kilometers from the ruptured seafloor oil well were clean and thriving.

The study of the deep-water corals is published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

NOAA released the dolphin study preliminary results last Friday.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred April 20, 2010 when a damaged British Petroleum well on the seabed 80 kilometers off the coast of the southern U.S. state of Louisiana released nearly five million barrels of crude oil into Gulf waters before it was capped nearly 90 days later.   Eleven oil workers were killed in the explosion that damaged and sank the BP-leased oil rig.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs