National Wildlife Federation says Gulf of Mexico still suffering from oil spill
Mark Schleifstein - The Times-Picayune
This excerpt is from The Times-Picayune
Two years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there are still clear signs that the environment along the northern Gulf of Mexico, especially in Louisiana, continues to be affected by oil pollution, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation. "Although the oil has stopped flowing from the wellhead, the gas has stopped spewing out of the wellhead, the Gulf oil spill is not over," said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the federation.
The federation called on Congress to pass the Restore Act, which would dedicate fines and penalties against BP and other responsible parties toward long-term restoration of the Gulf. It also called for better safeguards in oil and gas leasing practices and permitting.
The federation concluded that six key Gulf features remain at risk from BP oil, although not all are in serious danger yet, Inkley said.
The most visible of them: the bottlenose dolphins of Barataria Bay, declared in poor health last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Prior to the spill, the federation rated the status of those dolphins as "good." Today, they're "fair," because of an "unexplained mortality event" that has resulted in more dolphins being stranded at a higher-than-average rate for 26 consecutive months. Most of the stranded dolphins were dead.
NOAA scientists last month said that it's still too soon to link the deaths to the heavy oiling of the Barataria Bay area, but said the dolphins' health problems might have been exacerbated by the oil exposure.
"They are at the top of the food chain in the Gulf, perhaps even more than we are, because they eat whole fish. They consume everything," said George Crozier, retired director of Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. "That creates a situation where they might be bio-accumulating any toxics in the food chain."
Because they breathe air, the dolphins also are likely to have inhaled toxic fumes and to have swum through oil.
The federation already ranked five species of endangered and threatened sea turtles that reproduce in the Gulf as poor. But the hundreds of dead turtles spotted during the spill raise new concerns, federation officials said.