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General News    H3'ed 2/22/11

Dead Baby Dolphins and Oil Wash in on the Gulf Coast

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In the Gulf, the temperature is rising. The magical spring season should soon bring warm waters teeming with life back to the region's marshy bayous and sandy shores.  

But there are troubling signs all is not right with the Gulf. This week, dramatic video and stories are emerging of at least 18 dead baby dolphins found on the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi. The tragic sight of these baby mammals floating belly up not far from the high rises and condos that students and families will flock to this spring suggest a different reality from the one presented by multi-million dollar ad campaigns that all is well along the Gulf shores.  

Local fish and wildlife experts are studying the exact cause of this carnage to see if it's oil related. My NRDC colleague Josh Mogerman's blog points out that scientific research shows how sensitive dolphins are to chemicals and toxins that can contaminate mother dolphins' milk.

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Dolphins at play near oil contaminated marshes of Bay Jimmy, LA, last fall.

Photo by NRDC/Rocky Kistner


But this isn't the only troubling sign that life isn't normal down in the Gulf. Oily tar balls are still washing in and residents point out the beaches are definitely not normal. Lorrie Williams of Ocean Springs, MS, has been documenting the continued contamination of her nearby beaches. 

"This was one of the first areas of Mississippi that was impacted by the BP oil last June," she says. "BP never went down the beach to cleanup where the bayou and marsh grass is. The oil is stuck in the marsh grass. Everything is dead. When the sun hits on it, you get rainbow spots."

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Blood Beach, MS, taken in February, 2011                    Photos by Lorrie Williams


Meanwhile, independent scientists continue to explore the sea bottom for signs of oil. And they are finding it. A lot of it. Marine biologist Samantha Joye told BBC News that the true extent of the oil disaster is still a long ways off.  

The impact on the benthos was devastating. Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans - all of those were substantially impacted - and by impacted, I mean essentially killed....Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn't see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They're typically everywhere, and we saw none.

Here's what the Associated Press  had to say about Samantha Joye's revelations: 

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Rocky Kistner is a media associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Since June, 2010, he has focused on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, working out of NRDC's Gulf Resource Center in Buras, LA. He is a been a print and broadcast (more...)
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