Dolphin stranded on Fourchon Beach, Louisiana following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, May 2011. Photo: Gulf Restoration Network

By Brady Dennis
26 April 2016

(Washington Post) – Six years on, scientists are continuing to tally the ecological harms caused by the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest glimpse at the ongoing environmental effects of the disaster came in a new report [pdf] by the conservation and advocacy group Oceana, which compiled the findings of a broad range of studies — primarily from the past two years — examining the aftermath of the spill. The report makes clear that the reach of the disaster, which ranks as one of the costliest environmental catastrophes ever, continues to grow.

  • Years after the spill, scientists detected hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon spill in 90 percent of pelican eggs tested in Minnesota — more than 1,000 miles away — where many birds that winter in the Gulf of Mexico spend their summers. In addition, the chemical dispersant used to break up oil in the wake of the spill was found in about 80 percent of the eggs. Researchers say that exposing bird eggs to oil can cause birth defects and premature deaths in offspring. Scientists are continuing to study the problem.
  • Endangered sea turtles that had migrated to the Gulf from West Africa, South America and elsewhere died as a result of the spill, underscoring the global ripple effects of the disaster. About 75 percent of the sea turtles that died after the Deepwater Horizon spill were Kemp’s ridley sea turtles — among the smallest and most endangered species in the world. Scientists have estimated that four times as many Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010, about 65,000, than in the year before the oil spill. [more]

Six years later, we’re still learning how badly the BP spill damaged the environment

Memorial on Grand Isle, Louisiana for crew members killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, April 2015. Photo: Julie Dermansky

WASHINGTON, 14 April 2016 (Oceana) – Today, Oceana released a new report titled Time for Action: Six Years After Deepwater Horizon that highlights the long-term impacts of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, which began six years ago next week. In the report, Oceana reviews the most recently published research that documents the damage from the oil spill to the Gulf of Mexico’s marine wildlife, habitats and communities.

While scientists are still working to understand the scale of the devastation to wildlife, fisheries and human health, Oceana marine scientist Dr. Ingrid Biedron says that we are already starting to see the long-term impacts of the spill.

“The significant die-off of whales and dolphins that began in 2010 continues today,” said Biedron. “Increased mortality rates and diminished reproductive success can have long-term effects on marine mammal populations impacted by the spill. But instead of learning from the disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to reduce the risk of another spill in U.S. waters.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • Mortality rates for common bottlenose dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana were 8 percent higher and their reproductive success was 63 percent lower compared to other dolphin populations.
  • An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 birds died as a result of the spill.
  • Harmful oil and/or oil dispersant chemicals were found in about 80 percent of pelican eggs that were laid in Minnesota, more than 1,000 miles from the Gulf, where most of these birds spend winters.
  • Oil exposure caused heart failure in juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tunas, reduced swimming ability in juvenile mahi-mahi and caused gill tissue damage in killifish.
  • The oil plume caused bleaching and tissue loss in deep-water coral reefs over an area three times larger than Manhattan.
  • Endangered sea turtles that had migrated to the Gulf from Mexico, South America and West Africa died in the spill, demonstrating the global scale of impacts.
  • The 50,000 people involved in the spill cleanup were exposed to chemicals that severely damage lung tissue.
  • Cleanup workers and their spouses reported increased depression and domestic disputes.
  • Even Gulf residents indirectly affected by the spill suffered from increased anxiety and depression.
  • It can take a decade or more for oil spill victims to recover from the physical and psychological effects of an oil disaster.
  • The impact of the oil spill on fisheries could total $8.7 billion by 2020, including the loss of 22,000 jobs.
  • 10 million user-days of beach, fishing, and boating activity were lost.

“Six years later, the lesson from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is clear: offshore drilling is not safe for marine ecosystems, the economy or human health,” said Biedron. “We know that opening new areas to offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks. We should not be expanding offshore drilling in U.S. waters or using disruptive technologies like seismic airgun blasting that can disrupt marine life to search for oil and gas. Instead of expanding our dependence on risky offshore drilling, we should rapidly develop clean energy solutions like offshore wind.” [more]

Contact: Dustin Cranor: 954.348.1314

New Oceana Report Highlights Long-Term Impacts of Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster



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