Dead Baby Dolphins and The Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Over ten months ago, on April 20th, 2010, The Deepwater Horizon experienced a massive explosion while workers aboard were exploring for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Shorty after 11 crewmembers were confirmed dead, officials announced that there was a leak in the well. As barrels and barrels of oil spewed into the water, the federal government deployed a tremendous effort to cap the well, utilizing familiar and unique technological strategies. Though the well was capped after 87 days and finally killed after 149 days, the damage was massive. 4.9 million barrels of toxic oil had escaped, causing harm to countless species in the Gulf in unprecedented ways. As the 1-year anniversary of the oil spill approaches, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Gulf of Mexico has been changed forever and the restoration process is still underway.
This week, researchers reported that dead baby dolphins emerged along the shores of the Gulf in alarming high amounts, a potentially an important finding in light of the spill. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport is currently performing animal autopsies to gather tissues and organs in hopes of uncovering an explanation for the deaths. It is important to note that it has not been confirmed whether the oil spill and the death of the dolphins are related.
In the past two months, dolphin deaths have risen by a factor of 10. Dolphins typically begin their breeding season in the spring and carry young for 11 to 12 months. Around March, birthing season begins. Typically, in the preceding months, 1 to 2 baby dolphins are found dead each month. In the past months, 17 dead baby dolphins have washed ashore.