Oil Spill Effects Several Species in the Gulf of Mexico

Four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover, according to a report released last month.

In particular, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers. The evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the spill, according to Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, which issued the report.

More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April, 2010. If you stretched the remains lengthwise, that’s 1.5 miles of dead dolphins, Inkley said. Scientists know that is more than in previous years because they’ve been recording deaths and strandings in the Gulf for a decade.

For its part, BP PLC, which operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, claims that the report “is a piece of political advocacy — not science.”

BP recently bid on new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a week after a federal ban was lifted that kept the company from doing business with the U.S. government for 16 months. BP will pay $41.6 million for new access to explore in U.S. waters off the coasts of Louisiana and Alabama.

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Gulf of Mexico drilling has boomed in the last few years, reaching a record high of more than 800 permits in September. Analysts rank Gulf wells among the highest for profitability, 50 to 100 percent above the industry world average. (See last month’s “Gulf Oil Feeding Frenzy.”)

To view the National Wildlife report for yourself, visit NationalGeographic.com.

Text by Dave Helms

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