Dolphins Dying by the Thousands as a Result of 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill


The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Following the event through 2012, more than a thousand dolphins washed up dead along the Gulf, in three major strandings. That’s four to five times higher than the region’s usual rate of dolphin deaths.

“We found that dolphins dying after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas.”

Kathleen Colegrove of the University of Illinois was the lead veterinary pathologist of the latest in a series of studies analyzing the die-off. She and her study co-authors took part in a telephone press conference on May 20th.

“Now, surprisingly, one in three dolphins that stranded in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had a thin adrenal gland cortex. And when looking at just the Barataria Bay dolphins, half of them had this lesion.”

Barataria Bay got an especially high dose of oil.

“This prevalence was significantly higher than in the reference population, in which less than one in 10 had this lesion. Now, this thinning of the adrenal gland cortex was a very unusual abnormality for us, that has not been previously reported in dolphins in the literature…now, aside from chemical exposure, conditions that can cause the adrenal gland to become thin include things like cancer, autoimmune disease, fungal infections and tuberculosis. And we did not find any evidence of these alternative causes in the dolphins.

“Now, in addition many dolphins dying after the oil spill again in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had evidence of significant lung disease…in fact, these dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the U.S.”

The study is in the journal PLoS ONE. [Stephanie Venn-Watson et al, Adrenal Gland and Lung Lesions in Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Found Dead following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill]

BP disputes the link between the dolphins and the oil spill. But the study’s lead author, Stephanie Venn-Watson of the National Marine Mammal Foundation contends:

“The evidence to date indicates that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and associated compounds caused the adrenal and lung lesions which contributed to the increased deaths as part of this unusual mortality event.”

story by Steve Mirsky

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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