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General News    H2'ed 6/20/10

New Photos: Suffering Dolphins in Barataria Bay

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On an even worse note, this is the time of year that calves are born. There can be serious consequences if a baby dolphin ingests tainted milk.

Why the dolphins of Barataria Bay have been forgotten, ignored, or the situation has been deliberately withheld is anyone's guess. What we do know is that the Coast Guard has been engaged in restricting news crews in the area. The Coast Guard, as one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, seems to be answering to the orders of British Petroleum, and in a widely reported incident, challenged CBS reporters reporting from Louisiana's Coastal waters, as seen in this video:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

On two occasions during the week of June 6-13, we were stopped by the Coast Guard and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Officials for "not wearing a life vest," when regulations state that while a vessel must have flotation devices, they do not have to be worn unless the boat is under sixteen feet. The captains believed we were at or over the requirement on both occasions. The camera, more than safety concerns seemed to be the motivation for the encounters. While we were detained, we were also warned "no photos."

G. Nienaber
All boats must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard--approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device that is, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Each person on board must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while underway on a motorboat less than 16 feet long using an outboard motor that is steered by a hand tiller or steering arm attached to the motor.

The buck stops with the Coast Guard, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser has called for the resignation of Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, saying Allen has failed at almost every step in dealing with the catastrophic leak and is "not the right man for the job." Nungesser was talking about idle skimmers, idle BP workers and roadblocks placed in the way of his attempts to clean oil out of sensitive marshlands in Barataria Bay and other areas.

Another source says that BP officials have warned workers under contract that they are not to discuss dead, injured, or oiled dolphins with anyone. While working the beach at Grand Isle, we were stopped by private security on two occasions and warned not to take photos of workers and not to step over the barrier boom into the "hot zone."

News blackout or not, it is critical that the dolphins of Barataria Bay get some attention.

A recent study of dolphins suggests that their intelligence requires that they be treated as "non-human persons" and granted rights as individuals.

Scientists studying dolphin behavior have suggested they could be the most intelligent creatures on Earth after humans, saying the size of their brains in relation to body size is larger than that of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, and their behaviors suggest complex intelligence. The behavioral studies showed dolphins (especially the bottlenose) have distinct personalities and self-awareness, and they can think about the future. The research also confirmed dolphins have complex social structures, with individuals co-operating to solve difficult problems or to round up shoals of fish to eat, and with new behaviors being passed from one dolphin to another.

Imagine that you, as a being with self-awareness and intelligence, suddenly find yourself in a situation in which you become sick and disoriented. You sense that a foreign substance is coating your body, but you cannot remove it and you cannot escape from it. The food you eat is covered with this substance, and as you swallow it, it coats your digestive system and burns the membranes inside of your mouth; finally finding its way into the milk your infant suckles.

Something is terribly wrong and you swim in circles, confused, finally watching your infant sink helplessly into a brown bubbling substance where once you swam together in clear blue, life-giving waters.


Jerry Moran

This is real and requires little imagination. The toxic soup in Barataria Bay is killing the dolphins. They need help. The time is over for hiding or burying the evidence as Moran discovered on a back beach on Grand Isle in late May.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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