The Christian Science Monitor recently summarized the National Wildlife Federation report issued April 8, 2014, that “…focused on 14 water, air, and land species located in the northern Gulf and affected by the oil spill, using data from independent scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” The report references the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig on April 10, 2010.
The summary reads:
• Tens of thousands of sea turtles suffered oil exposure. The number of Kemp’s Ridleys, one of five species of sea turtles in the Gulf and the one considered the most endangered, fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2010 and has been “flat-lined” since, according to Pamela Plotkin, an associate research professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University in College Station. “We’re really concerned … that there have been some long-term impacts as a result of the oil spill,” she says.
• More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded since 2010. Those that have survived have been evaluated as underweight or anemic.
• Nearly a thousand brown pelicans collected since the spill were exposed to oil, and half of them died. Oil also contaminated island mangrove thickets that are used for nesting, suggesting that the number of brown pelicans in the long term will be stunted.
• Chemicals traced to the spill have been linked to irregular heartbeats in the embryos of bluefin and yellowfin tuna.
• Sperm whales known to live in the spill area have been deemed to have higher levels of chromium, nickel, and other metals in their bodies than they did before the spill.
• Coastal birds, particularly loons, are thought to carry an increased concentration of toxic oil compounds in their blood.
BP Oil, however, challenged the NWF report, accusing the nonprofit of “cherry picking” data.
Jason Ryan, a spokesman for BP, said in response to e-mail questions the NWF report was off the mark.
“The National Wildlife Federation report is a piece of political advocacy, not science,” he said. “It cherry picks reports to support the organization’s agenda, often ignoring caveats in those reports or mischaracterizing their findings.”
The U.S. government estimates about 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled when the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased from Transocean by BP, caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Eleven rig workers died in the incident.
BP said that, as of Dec. 31, it has spent more than $14 billion on clean-up and other activities associated with the spill.
Ryan said a number of investigations were ongoing to determine how wildlife are dealing with the consequences of the spill, though no definitive conclusions have been reached.