Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | October 31, 2011

Does the BP Oil Spill Have Anything to do With the Increased Number of Dolphin’s Deaths in the Gulf?

I am assuming that most of you know about the BP (British Petroleum) oil spill which occurred on April 20, 2010. For those of you who may have heard about it but do not fully understand what happened I will inform you. According to,


On April 20, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and commencing months of oil leaking unrestrained into the ocean. Efforts to manage the spill with controlled burning, dispersants and plugging the leak were unsuccessful until BP capped the well in mid-July, temporarily halting the flow of oil into the Gulf. The well was then successfully plugged and declared “effectively dead” on September 19.

This spill has obtained the dubious distinction of being the worst oil spill in US history, surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez tanker that spilled 11 million gallons of oil into the ecologically sensitive Prince William Sound in 1989. It is estimated that over 205 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf.

That amount of oil being released into the Gulf is extremely lethal to the marine ecosystem and the marine life living within in.

Dolphin Washed Ashore Dead After BP Oil Spill

So now you may be wondering what this massive oil spill has to do with dolphins? Let me tell you. In an article by Julia Whitty posted on on October 21, 2011, the reporter found that the rate of dolphins, and whales, dying in the Gulf is twice its normal rate. She reported:

The latest NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] report on unusual strandings of whales and dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico finds that they’re still dying at twice the normal rate 18 months after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

According to the NOAA’s 2010-2011 Cetacean Unusual Mortality Event in Northern Gulf of Mexico there have 580 Cetacean (whales and dolphins) “strandings,” meaning there bodies have been washed ashore, in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Of these “strandings” 5 percent of the cetaceans were still alive, while sadly 95 percent of them were dead.


Map of Where Dolphin "Strandings" Have Occurred in the Gulf of Mexico


In this map the green and pink dotes represent the locations of these “stranded” dolphins and whales. And as you can see they are found very heavily along the coast of the Gulf. The pink dots represent the cetaceans that have been found within the first week of this October.

Another article called The BP Oil Spill, One Year Later: How Healthy Is the Gulf Now? by Bryan Walsh on stated that the BP spill covered some 1,600 miles of the Gulf Coast and also that “scientists caution that a single year isn’t long enough to draw any final conclusions about an environmental insult so huge.”

Map of Area Affected by the BP Spill

However, in an article on written by Clayton Sandell, Sandell discusses that the oil leak and the dolphin strandings might not be related. “The reasons for dolphin strandings can be a mystery” as stated by Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast region marine mammal strandings coordinator. However, Mase also went on to say:

 Because they’ve come in during this event and because there’s a possibility they could have been affected by oil inhalation and that sort of thing, we are going to treat it as an oiled animal.

Marine mammals can be seriously affected by oil and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies stated that they were going to perform tests on 66 dead sea turtles found on the Mississippi beaches.

Sandell went on to say,

 While experts agree the massive oil leak will cause staggering ecological and economic damage, officials said they must wait for conclusive test results before blaming the oil for the dolphin deaths.

Although it is not confirmed that these deaths are 100 percent the fault of the BP oil spill, we know that a decent amount of them are. More tests are being done, and until the results are released we will not know for certain.

BP Oil Spill


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