Four Years Into the Gulf Oil Disaster: Still Waiting for Restoration

  • Doug B. Inkley, PhD
  • Apr 08, 2014

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, sending more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wildlife are still struggling.

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation looks at how 14 species that depend on a healthy Gulf are faring in the wake of the BP oil spill.

Bottlenose Dolphins

More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April of 2010. In 2013, dolphins were found dead at more than three times normal rates.

Bottlenose dolphins in one heavily-oiled section of the Louisiana coast have unusual lung damage and immune system problems. Federal scientists have said there is strong evidence that oil from the disaster is making these dolphins so sick; scientists are currently investigating how oil may be implicated in the continuing wave of dolphin deaths across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Other Wildlife at Risk

Dolphins are not the only animals that have been feeling the impact of the oil. A few highlights from other sections of the report:

  • Roughly 500 dead sea turtles have been found every year for the past three years in the area affected by the spill—a dramatic increase over normal rates.

  • Oyster reproduction remained low over large areas of the northern Gulf at least through the fall of 2012.

  • A chemical in oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death.

  • Loons that winter on the Louisiana coast have increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.

  • Sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals than sperm whales elsewhere in the world—metals that were present in oil from BP’s well.

Still Waiting for Restoration...

The Deepwater Horizon disaster on the Gulf ecosystem will likely unfold for years or even decades. It is essential that careful monitoring of the Gulf ecosystem continue and that mitigation of damages and restoration of degraded and weakened ecosystems begin as soon as possible.

Four Years Into the Gulf Oil Disaster: Still Waiting for Restoration

A look at how 14 Gulf species are faring in the wake of the BP oil disaster.


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