Mar 31, 2011

True toll of BP disaster may be 50 times worse than thought

Daily KO's - The recorded impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on wildlife may have severely underestimated the number of deaths of whales and dolphins, according to a new report.

An unusual mortality event has been declared by NOAAfor cetaceans in the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, the actual number of dead cetaceans may be 50 times higher than the number counted according to a new study published today.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 devastated the Gulf of Mexico ecologically and economically. However, a new study published in Conservation Letters reveals that the true impact of the disaster on wildlife may be gravely underestimated. The study argues that fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses will not give a true death toll, which may be 50 times higher than believed.

"The Deepwater oil spill was the largest in US history, however, the recorded impact on wildlife was relatively low, leading to suggestions that the environmental damage of the disaster was actually modest," said lead author Dr Rob Williams from the University of British Columbia."This is because reports have implied that the number of carcasses recovered, 101, equals the number of animals killed by the spill."

Cetacean mortality tabulated by NOAA based on observed strandings. "All stranded cetaceans (dolphins and whales) from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border."

All stranded bottlenose dolphins from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border.

Image Source: NOAA

A marine mammal advocate working for the NRDC calculates that thousands of dolphins have died.