In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that of the 406 dolphins that have washed ashore in the last 14 months, 15 of them had oil on their bodies. Of that number, eight have been linked to oil from the BP catastrophe last year in the Gulf of Mexico.
The discovery raises new concerns over the true impact the oil disaster is having on the Gulf’s food web.
Blair Mase, the NOAA Fisheries southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator, said: “It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago,” according to Reuters
The news comes at a time when there has been a recent spike in the number of endangered sea turtles being washed ashore
along the coastal states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. There have been 132 reported strandings of the turtles
this year, with 87 coming since mid-March, although there have been no visible signs of oil on their carcasses, said Barbara Schroeder, national sea turtle coordinator with NOAA Fisheries.
“But we do not have very much information about how oil products find their way into turtles,” Schroeder said, Reuters reports.
The news of oil on the dolphins precedes what is expected to be a wave of dead dolphins in coming weeks with the bottlenose calving season reaching full swing. Between 2,000 and 5,000 will bear young calves in the region.
Samples sent for lab testing could help decide if the oil was a factor in the dolphins’ deaths.
NOAA officials report there have been 153 reported dolphin deaths this year in the region, with 65 of them being stillborn or newly born calves, but an an earlier Reuters report showed there have been almost 200 dolphin deaths in the area this year.
The Obama administration is restricting public information
on those lab findings, citing legal issues in an ongoing civil and criminal investigation involving BP.